|Foldable artificial muscles can lift 1000 times their weight, be made in
just 10 minutes and cost less than a dollar.
Soft robots are getting better, but greater flexibility has a trade-off
as softer materials are often weaker and less resilient than inflexible
ones, limiting their use. But now researchers from Harvard University
have created a 2.6-gram 'muscle' that can lift a 3-kilogram object - a
weight to strength ratio equivalent to a newborn lifting a Land Rover.
The origami-inspired robot looks a bit like a bag with many chambers,
each filled with air or water. When a vacuum is applied, the fluid is
sucked out, contracting the muscle and driving the motion.
It can be made of a range of materials, and to test it in various forms
the researchers used metal springs, packing foam and plastic sheets,
among other things. The ability to use soft materials will allow the
robot to directly but safely interact with humans in industrial
settings, the team hopes.