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New artificial muscle promises robot super strength

UC Berkeley researchers develop a micro-size robotic muscle that's 1,000 times stronger than the paltry muscles we humans depend on.

Warner Bros.

We've seen robots destroy and conquer in movies, but we never thought that would come close to happening in the real world. After all, we've mostly seen them being built for such humanly tasks as painting and, well, vomiting.

But researchers at the University of California at Berkeley have developed a micro-size robotic muscle that is 1,000 times stronger than a human muscle.

They used a material called vanadium dioxide to produce the robot muscle. When heated to 152.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the compound changes from an insulator to a conductive metal, giving it a huge amount of strength during the transition.

This lets the robot muscle throw objects 50 times heavier than itself over a distance five times its length, all within 60 milliseconds -- faster than the blink of an eye.

Heating of the robot muscle can be done either with a tiny heating pad or an electrical current. The heating process can also be triggered optically since heat is generated when vanadium dioxide absorbs light.

"With its combination of power and multi-functionality, our micro-muscle shows great potential for applications that require a high level of functionality integration in a small space," Junqiao Wu, a UC Berkeley professor of material science and leader of the project, said. "Multiple micro-muscles can be assembled into a micro-robotic system that simulates an active neuromuscular system."

Wu and his colleagues detail their research in a recent issue of the journal Advanced Materials. Their paper is titled "Powerful, Multifunctional Torsional Micro Muscles Activated by Phase Transition."

And sorry bodybuilders, it looks like only robots will get to benefit from these super muscles.

(Source: Crave Asia via Gigaom)