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NCSU Researchers Produce Artificial Muscle-Like Fibers

Two North Carolina State University (NCSU) researchers have produced plastic tube structures resembling human muscle strands and applied electrical currents to make the tubes mimic muscle activity. Tushar Ghosh, Ph.D., a professor at the Raleigh, N.C.-based universitys College of Textiles, and John Muth, Ph.D., an associate professor at the College of Engineering, see opportunities to develop such fibers for a wide range of applications including smart textiles, biomedicine, prosthetics and robotics.

With their work funded by a grant from the Spring House, Pa.-based National Textiles Center, Ghosh and Muth applied electrical currents to polyurethane and silicone tubes to produce behavior similar to that exhibited in human muscle. The prototypes, approximately the size of a pencil lead, are the first artificial muscle-like fibers produced in a lab, according to NCSU. The next step in the research is to make smaller fibers comparable in size to muscle fibers.

"We have developed a fiber at a large scale and demonstrated that you can generate significant levels of force," Ghosh said. "The muscles in our bodies are made of fibers, and if we can mimic those fibers, get them down to scale and bundle them in the same way, we believe we can make very useful devices with them."

"We've been interested in these ideas of being able to control the shapes of fabrics using electricity or some other forces for some time," Muth added. "There are a wide variety of potential uses for these tpes of fibers. A good next step would be to reduce the size of these fibers to a smaller scale."
May 22, 2007