In recent years, material scientists have created a wide range of novel materials that could be used to develop new technologies, including controllers, smart textiles, and soft robots. The use of these materials include structures, artificial muscles that resemble biological muscles in shape, and that could assist the movements of robots, or in the creation of clothing for varying environmental conditions.
A team of researchers at Jiangnan University, China as part of an ongoing project focused on textile-based soft actuators, developed new artificial muscles based on free standing, single-helical woollen yarn.
The artificial muscles described in a paper published in Smart Materials and Structures could be used to produce twisted actuators easily and affordably, which can find and respond to humidity in the environment.
“The objective is to design adaptable and versatile actuators by using the hierarchical structure design of textiles, which ranges from microscales to macroscales,” stated one of the researchers.
The actualization of yarn-based artificial muscle, with a free standing and single-helical architecture, which uses eco-friendly and easy-manufacturing process is still challenging.
Meanwhile, for the team of researchers, the primary objective was to overcome some of the most common challenges faced while designing artificial muscles based on yarn.
In fact, past studies have demonstrated that twisting yarn dependably to fabricate free-standing artificial muscles structures without harmful chemicals or processes is extremely challenging.
However, researchers at Jiangnan University were able to identify an eco-friendly treatment approach for the reliable manufacture of single-helical muscle based on yarn. The fabrication method of the researchers is based on a combination of plasma etching and UV illumination.
Importantly, the processing technique can restrict dissipation of energy from the woollen fibers, and thus improve the actuation performance of artificial muscles.