They create artificial muscles that allow robots to lift up to 1,000 times their weight
It's like giving superpowers to these robots," said Daniela Rus, co-author of the discovery, after building these muscles inspired by origami.
Scientists from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created artificial muscles inspired by origami and that give soft robots strength, allowing them to lift objects that are up to 1,000 times their weight.
This advance, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , is based exclusively on the application of air or pressurized water in artificial muscles, called simply actuators .
"We were very surprised at how strong these muscles were, we expected them to have a higher maximum functional weight than ordinary soft robots, but we did not expect a 1,000-fold increase, it's like giving superpowers to these robots," said Daniela Rus , coauthor of the study and professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT.
Artificial muscle-like actuators are one of the most important challenges in all engineering," said Rob Wood , professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard's John A. Paulson School (SEAS). "Now that we have created actuators with properties similar to those of natural muscle, we can imagine building almost any robot for almost any task," he added.
Each artificial muscle consists of an internal 'skeleton' that can be made of different materials, such as a metal coil or a plastic sheet folded in a certain pattern, surrounded by air or fluid and sealed inside a plastic or textile bag that It serves as the skin.
The skin collapses
A vacuum applied to the inside of the bag initiates the movement of the muscle causing the skin to collapse in the 'skeleton', creating tension that drives the movement. Incredibly, no other source of power or human input is required to direct muscle movement; is completely determined by the shape and composition of the skeleton.
"One of the key aspects of these muscles is that they are programmable, in the sense that the design of how the skeleton folds defines how the whole structure moves, it obtains that movement in its own way, without the need for a control system" , has indicated Shuguang Li , co-author of the finding.
This approach allows the muscles to be very compact and simple, and therefore more appropriate for mobile or body mounted systems that can not accommodate large or heavy machinery. "When you create robots, you always have to ask, 'Where is the intelligence, is it in the body or in the brain?' Rus thought.
"Incorporating intelligence in the body (through specific folding patterns, in the case of our actuators) has the potential to simplify the algorithms necessary for the robot to achieve its objective.All these actuators have the same simple on / off switch , that their bodies are translated into a wide range of movements ", has ruled Rus.