The so-called soft robotics technologies allow machines to move in such ways that are copied from the modes of movement of various species of living organisms. However, increasing the flexibility and elasticity of robotic devicesusually means a decrease in their strength, which imposes some restrictions on the width of their practical use. The solution to this problem was found by researchers from the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Weiss Institute of Harvard University. Created by them artificial muscles-origami will allow soft robots to lift the weight, a thousand times greater than their own weight. One such muscle, weighing 2.6 grams, is capable of lifting a weight of 3 kg, which is comparable to a newborn child lifting a car.
The new artificial muscles consist of an internal plastic “skeleton”, surrounded by a hermetic shell. In the cavity inside these muscles you can pump air or water under pressure, or create a vacuum there. This, in turn, causes the muscle to move, developing a sufficiently high effort. For the work of such artificial muscles does not require an internal source of energy, and the type of movement is determined by the structure of the internal “skeleton” and is specified at the production stage.
Using the technology developed by them, the researchers created several types of soft robots, a robotic manipulator that can lift an object off the ground, spin into a spiral and contract to a size of 10 percent of its normal size. Such artificial muscles can be made from a water-soluble polymer that simply disappears after the robot performs the task without damaging the environment.
It should be noted that the members of the research group themselves were surprised by the capabilities and efficiency of the technology they developed. “We did not expect that the muscles we created would be so strong, and we certainly expected that they could lift more weight than other soft robots,” says Daniela Rus, director of the CSAIL laboratory. “But we’re not at all We counted on a thousand-fold superiority, and now we have wide opportunities for creating robots with superpowers. ”
Using the new technology, you can create artificial muscles, ranging in size from a few millimeters to a meter. Using a specialized three-dimensional printer, one artificial muscle can be manufactured in less than 10 minutes, and its cost will not exceed one dollar.
In addition to soft robotics, the new artificial muscles and principles on which they are based can be used to create probes capable of exploring the deepest places in the World Ocean, medical devices that will allow minimally invasive surgical interventions and even to create architectural elements that will provide The buildings and structures are able to change their form within certain limits.