A team of scientists led by Professor Il-Kwon Oh from KAIST’s Department of Mechanical Engineering has developed an artificial muscle device that produces a force 34 times greater than its weight. This breakthrough, published in the journal Science Advances, has significant implications for the field of robotics and fluid control.
Fluid switches, which direct fluid flow in specific directions to induce movement, are crucial in various applications such as soft robots, medical devices, and wearables. However, existing switches based on motors often face limitations due to their rigidity and large size, making them unsuitable for use in narrow spaces.
To overcome these challenges, the research team designed a soft fluidic switch using ionic polymer artificial muscles. These artificial muscles mimic human muscles, providing flexible and natural movements. They respond to external stimuli such as electricity, air pressure, and temperature changes.
The ionic polymer artificial muscle developed by the team consists of metal electrodes and ionic polymers. By combining organic molecules on the muscle electrode’s surface, they created a polysulfonated covalent organic framework (pS-COF) that generates a significant force relative to its weight. This impressive force is achieved with ultra-low power levels of approximately 0.01V.
Despite its incredibly thin size of 180 µm, comparable to a strand of hair, the artificial muscle device demonstrated exceptional performance. It produced a force more than 34 times greater than its own weight of only 10 mg, enabling smooth and precise movement. This capability allows for precise control of fluid flow within narrow pipes or tight spaces.
Professor Il-Kwon Oh expressed excitement about the potential applications of this technology. He stated, “The electrochemical soft fluidic switch that operates at ultra-low power opens up numerous possibilities in the fields of soft robots, soft electronics, and microfluidics. This technology can be readily applied in various industrial settings, from smart fibers to biomedical devices and ultra-small electronic systems in our daily lives.”
With its ability to generate high forces with low power consumption and function in narrow spaces, this artificial muscle device holds promise for advancements in the field of robotics. It paves the way for more precise control over fluid flow, enabling the development of more efficient and responsive soft robots, medical devices, and wearable technologies.
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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