Shadowing a DoctorMarch 6, 2014
Huge advancements being made in medical technology almost every day are quickly changing the medical scenario. In one of the latest breakthroughs, scientists at the University of Texas have engineered state-of-the-art muscle fibres from polyethylene fishing lines and nylon sewing thread. These muscle fibres can be integrated into fabric that can contract when temperatures drop and expand when the climate is warm. This innovative invention can eventually be used for prosthetic limbs and humanoid robots.
The artificial muscles created in a laboratory at the university can generate 7.1 horsepower per kilogram that is similar to the power generated by jet engines and enables it to lift very heavy items that ordinary human muscles cannot. If the development of this new invention is successful, it can replace weak and costly synthetic muscles being produced today.
The researchers are very optimistic about the future of this artificial muscle fibre. It opens the door to many opportunities and possible functions that can be applied to medicine, humanoid robots, robotic machines, prosthetics and other wearable items for the physically impaired.
The technology surpasses today’s current applications that use motors and hydraulic systems that are expensive and bulky. The most surprising part of this invention is that this revolutionary creation comes from cheap and ordinary fishing lines instead of expensive carbon nanotube yarn or shape memory alloy.
The research team is comprised of scientists from the United States, Australia, Canada, China, Turkey and South Korea. The study was led by Ray Baughman from the University of Texas. The artificial muscle fibres were created in the lab by twisting and coiling fishing lines and nylon thread fibres into a torsional muscle that resemble the size and weight of real human muscle. The fibres were twisted till they could no longer be twisted. This caused the coils to expand as they tried to untwist themselves. Since the coils were locked in place, they just ended up being compressed.
According to Baughman, the technique was so simple, even high school students could make their own artificial muscles. The most important part of the process is to make sure that the tension and weight applied to the threads during the twisting and coiling process is correct. The end result gives you springy, flexible, durable and high-energy coils that can pick up 100 times more weight than what human muscles can lift.
This revolutionary artificial muscle is more energy-dense than jet engines or electric motors. Human muscles contract by 20%, while the new artificial muscle fibres contract up to 50% of their normal length. Its flexibility, strength, and versatility make it capable of superhuman strength.
The lab-created muscle fibres are cost efficient to produce since they are made from ordinary fishing lines found everywhere. They are also reusable and quite versatile that allow scientist and manufacturers to produce the fibres for a variety of needs from robotics to wearable exoskeletons for paralyzed patients. Paralyzed patients can regain mobility and have 100 times more strength than what they lost. Scientists and surgeons are certain that this innovative invention will revolutionise the medical industry.