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January 14, 2014

Flexing some robotic muscle

Vanadium dioxide is 1,000 times stronger than human muscle.

By Cbr Rolling Blog

When thinking of super-strength robots, futuristic Terminator-like cyborgs tend to spring to mind. But Skynet’s vision may be closer than you think…

Researchers have developed a new robotic muscle that is a thousand times stronger than a human’s using vanadium dioxide.

The muscle would humble even Arnold Schwarzenegger in his heyday as it can catapult objects 50 times heavier than itself over distances five times its length within 60 miliseconds.

Vanadium dioxide is already prized for its ability to change size, shape and physical identity. But thanks to a research team led by Junqiao Qu of US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California, Berkeley’s department of material science and engineering, they have unveiled great new potential for the material.

Its ability to "remotely detect a target and respond by reconfiguring itself to a different shape," means there’s potential to create larger systems of the vanadium dioxide muscles, according to the report.

Skynet jokes aside, this is a big breakthrough in terms of what the future holds for prosthetics.

When heated, vanadium dioxide contracts along one dimension, while expanding along two others, making it a prime candidate for multi-functional motors and artificial muscles.

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"Multiple micro-muscles can be assembled into a micro-robotic system that simulates an active neuromuscular system," Wu said. "This simulates living bodies where neurons sense and deliver stimuli to the muscles and the muscles provide motion."

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