Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wax-Filled Nanotubes Flex Their Muscles - ScienceNOW

Wax-Filled Nanotubes Flex Their Muscles - ScienceNOW: Scientists have designed a flexible, yarnlike artificial muscle that can also pack a punch. It can contract in 25 milliseconds—a fraction of the time it takes to blink an eye—and can generate power 85 times as great as a similarly sized human muscle...

...Baughman's team realized, if they could instead infuse a material into carbon nanotubes to control the contraction, they could do away with the electrolyte solution. The researchers came up with a simple design: They soaked nanofibers in wax and then twisted them into yarns. The arrangement of the carbon nanofibers in the yarns is similar to the fibers in a finger trap child's game in which attempting to pull your fingers out of a tube only tightens it more. In the case of the carbon nanofibers, the expansion of the integrated wax shortens the fibers. And the wax's volume can be changed by altering the temperature, either using external power sources or in response to the surrounding environment. The new muscles, the team reports online today in Science, can lift about 100,000 times their own weight—many times more than a natural human muscle fiber.

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