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UBC researchers invent tiny artificial muscles with the strength, flexibility of elephant trunk
Date:10/13/2011

xas at Dallas and then tested as an artificial muscle in Madden's lab at UBC. A chance discovery by collaborators from Wollongong showed the enormous twist developed by the device. Guided by theory at UBC and further experiments in Wollongong and Texas, the team was able to extract considerable torsion and power from the yarns.

The torsional rotation of helically wound muscles, such as those in the flagella of bacteria, has existed in nature for hundreds of millions of years. Many other natural appendages -- from the trunk of an elephant to octopus's powerful and limber tentacles also show how helically wound muscle fibers cause rotation by contracting against a boneless core.

The nanotube yarns are activated by charging them in a salt solution, much as a battery is charged. A breakthrough discovery came from former UBC PhD student Tissaphern Mirfakhrai now at Stanford who found that the deformation of the yarns is proportional to the size and number of ions inserted. A similar effect is seen in lithium ion battery electrodes used in portable electronic devices, but in yarns it is put to good use. The helical structure of the yarns makes them unwind as they accept charge and swell. They twist back up again when discharged.

"The discovery, characterization, and understanding of these high performance torsional motors show the power of international collaborations," says corresponding author Ray Baughman, Robert A. Welch Professor of Chemistry and director of the University of Texas at Dallas Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute.


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Contact: lorraine.chan@ubc.ca
lorraine.chan@ubc.ca
604-822-2644
University of British Columbia
Source:Eurekalert

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