Hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh, The Loh Down on Science is a fun way to get your daily dose of science plus a dash of humor in less than two minutes.
Hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh
Airs Weekdays 2:43 and 3:43 a.m.

Robo-Sit-ups





Listen to story

01:30
Download this story 1MB

Happy hour for robots? Hey, it’s five o’clock somewhere!
 
This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.
 
Robots with artificial muscles that are flexible, durable, and responsive would be a dream! Unfortunately, robotic joints are too stiff and slow for human-like movement - yet!

Shengqian Ma from the University of South Florida may have a SOLUTION - literally!. It starts with a powder made of crystals linked together with small organic molecules. The powder is strong, but brittle. 

To make a flexible membrane, the team mixed in long stretchy molecules called polymers. Adding the polymers made the membrane one hundred times more flexible! 

To test its responsiveness and durability, Ma’s team made a small paper doll with a membrane waist. When exposed to alcohol, the muscle fibers contract quickly. They made the membrane contract and relax by alternating between alcohol vapor and regular air. It showed no signs of wear even after DOZENS of sit-ups! 

These muscles could be HUGE for creating human-like robots, prosthetic limbs, and even mini medical devices!
 
Wish alcohol could give ME a six-pack! Minus the sit-ups, of course.