Robotics has been making strides at an unprecedented pace over the past years. Researchers have been examining fastest, strongest, most efficient, and low-cost ways to enable robots to make the movements needed to perform their intended functions.
Meanwhile, principles of biomimetics often is the basis in the bid for new and improved soft robotics and actuation technologies. For biomimetics, the machine components are designed to imitate the movement of human muscles, and to outperform them, ideally. In fact, despite the performance of actuators such as hydraulic pistons and electric motors, their rigid structure limits deployment. Nonetheless, as robots move to move biological forms, and as demand for biomimetic prostheses increases, actuators need to evolve.
A paper on the development published in Science Robotics describes a new, high-performance artificial muscle technology developed in the Dynamic Systems Laboratory, Northern Arizona University. The paper details how the new technology enables more human-like movement of robots due to its flexibility and adaptability, and at the same time outperforms human skeletal muscle for several parameters.
The new linear actuators called cavatappi artificial muscles have resemblance to the Italian pasta,” stated the lead researcher.
Interestingly, the coiled, or helical structure of the actuator enables to generate more power. This makes them an ideal for bioengineering and robotics applications. In fact, in the initial work, the team demonstrated that cavatappi artificial muscles featured specific work and power metrics capabilities several times more than that of human skeletal muscles. And, with continued development, the cavatappi muscles can produce even higher levels of performance.
In terms of function, the basis of cavatappi artificial muscles is twisted polymer actuators that were known for their might when they first came out.