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We're a little crazy, about science!

Surprising New Synthetic Muscle

Photo credit goes to Popular Mechanics

Photo credit goes to — Popular Mechanics

It’s the stuff movies are made from. A new “super” synthetic muscle that is 100 times stronger than the muscle in your own body. It can be easily made, can be reused millions of times, and reacts much in the same manner as it’s natural counterpart.

No, they didn’t create this with a new super material, it isn’t carbon nanotubes, or any of the new shape-memory materials that are coming out. It’s simple fishing line, seriously.

So just how does this work?

Material science researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas took the fishing line and wound it; just a single strand,  until it made a tightly wound spiral like you would see on the old corded phones [yes, I am dating myself with that]. It is then heat treated to ‘lock’ it into place — further heating will cause it to retract like your own muscles would then expand once cooled.

But there is a catch and really, when isn’t there? It happens to be very inefficient — that hasn’t stopped researchers from using it though and the truth is that no material that has been researched for synthetic muscles has all the properties that you would want.

This doesn’t mean that the new muscle doesn’t have practical uses already, researchers suggest that it could be used to regulate the temperature by opening and closing window shutters or in ventilation systems, exoskeleton suits and just about all other types of robotic designs.

This design is so simple researchers are having high school students doing the winding.  It’s also pound for pound hundreds and thousands of dollars cheaper than the new wonder materials that are being researched today.

You can try this at home!

Because you can incorporate different materials into the winding, or even add coatings to the fishing line, you can effectively change the properties of the entire muscle. By using conductive materials in the winding for example, you can use electricity, instead of heat to contract the muscle. So really, this is just the first wave of ideas we are seeing from the new design. They have barely scratched the surface of possibilities.

Here is a video showing just how all this is done in case you want to try this at home:

It makes you wonder what else you might have lying in your home that, with a little modification, could make the next big breakthrough.

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One response

  1. Let’s go fishing with your arm.

    February 25, 2014 at 11:26 pm

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