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Nanotube Muscles

November 1, 2011

Improved artificial muscle fibers can twist at high speeds while carrying heavy loads.



Improving artificial muscles. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Researchers have been developing artificial muscle fibers, made from tiny cylinders called carbon nanotubes.  They’re one ten-thousandth the width of a human hair, but stronger than steel.  Now, an international research team has announced a breakthrough.   Chemist Ray Baughman of the University of Texas at Dallas says their nanotube fibers can twist while carrying heavy loads, the way and elephant trunk or octopus tentacle can. Only better.

RAY BAUGHMAN (University of Texas at Dallas):

Artificial muscles can accelerate an attached paddle up to 600 revolutions per minute in about 1.2 seconds, despite the fact that the attached paddle is about 2,000 times heavier than the artificial muscle.


Like real muscles, the nanotube muscles respond to electrical changes in a surrounding fluid.  These types of fibers could someday do the heavy lifting in incredibly tiny but powerful machines.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.