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Artificial Muscles Give Soft Robots Superpowers


Origami-inspired artificial muscles are capable of lifting up to 1,000 times their own weight.

Researchers at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have developed origami-inspired muscles that strengthen soft robots.

Credit: Shuguang Li/Wyss Institute, Harvard University

Researchers at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have developed origami-inspired muscles that strengthen soft robots, enabling them to lift objects that are up to 1,000 times their own weight using air or water pressure.

"Now that we have created actuators with properties similar to natural muscle, we can imagine building almost any robot for almost any task," says Harvard professor Rob Wood.

Each artificial muscle features an inner "skeleton" that can be made of various materials, surrounded by air or fluid and sealed in a plastic or textile bag. A vacuum applied to the inside of the bag initiates the muscle's movement by causing the skin to collapse onto the skeleton, creating motion-driving tension.

"One of the key aspects of these muscles is that they're programmable, in the sense that designing how the skeleton folds defines how the whole structure moves," says MIT CSAIL's Shuguang Li.

From Harvard University
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