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Self-Healing Artificial Muscle Could Lead The Way To Prosthetics And Robotics

Update Date: Apr 19, 2016 05:37 AM EDT

A material made of elastomer which is not just pliable but can also manage to self-heal has been regarded by its researchers to be an upfront candidate as an artificial muscle.

The brainstorming took place at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California headed by Professor Zhenan Bao of the university's College of Chemical Engineering. This development has been regarded by Bao and his colleagues as a valuable proponent in the field of prosthetics and robotics, according to Science Magazine

The experiment showcased the synthesized material undergoing run-throughs in its capacity for elasticity until its breaking point. After hitting the 45-inch capacity in a clamping machine, the researchers settled on a manual approach by holding both ends of the elastomer with their hands by while moving away from each other in opposite directions. Eventually, they managed to stretch the synthesized material to more than 8 feet or 100 inches. 

"In our case, the goal was not to make the best artificial muscle, but rather to develop new materials design rules for stretchable and self-healing materials,"Bao pointed it out. 

"Artificial muscle is one potential application for our materials," the professor optimistically added.

They also applied an electrical current to the elastomer which made the material twitch in the movement akin to a muscle. Upon jolting the elastomer, they noticed a swift 2% increased of the material but it returned to its original size after the current was turned off. With this discovery, this polymer could be the next step in the manufacture of synthetic muscles essential for the movement of artificial limbs. Furthermore, their next course of action could be to promote the synthetic material as a pressure or strain sensor due to its reaction with an electrical current.

The research had a two-year run and was overseen by Bao with contributions visiting academic Cheng-Hui Li,  Chao Wang of the University of California, Riverside, and Christoph Keplinger of University of Colorado, Boulder.

In related news, the University of Reading has produced a supramolecular polyurethane which is by some way stimulated by the human blood clotting system which could jumpstart the medical trend of self-healing bandages, according to UPI

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