Monday, May 27, 2024

Muscle-Powered Flexure Device For Biohybrid Robotics

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New spring-like modular devices are designed to optimize the performance of live muscle fibers, enabling their use in powering biohybrid robots.

Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have unveiled a spring-like device poised to revolutionise the construction of muscle-powered robots. This emerges as a versatile skeletal module, engineered to harness muscle tissue’s unparalleled efficiency for robotic actuation. Traditionally, muscle fibers are recognized for their superior power and precision over synthetic counterparts, alongside their self-healing and strengthening capabilities through exercise. This biological prowess has inspired engineers to develop “biohybrid” robots, integrating muscle-based actuators with artificial frameworks to execute various functions such as walking, swimming, and gripping.

Despite the diversity in biohybrid robot designs, a universal strategy for optimizing muscle utilization in robotics remained elusive until introduction of the “flexure.” This device is ingeniously crafted to maximize muscle-induced motion, akin to calibrating the optimal weight for a leg press machine. By attaching a ring of muscle tissue to the flexure, researchers observed a fivefold increase in stretch compared to previous designs, heralding a significant leap in robotic muscle actuation efficiency.

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This flexure is envisaged as a fundamental building block, allowing the assembly of various artificial skeletons. These can then be outfitted with muscle tissues to animate robots with natural, powerful movements. These flexures are akin to a skeleton for robots, enabling the conversion of muscle actuation into precise, multi-directional movements, underscoring the platform’s potential to inspire the creation of robust, muscle-driven robots capable of performing intricate tasks.

The team envisions the application of this technology in the development of advanced robotic systems, including surgical robots capable of performing minimally invasive procedures. By leveraging the innate strengths of biological actuators, this research paves the way for the creation of smaller, more efficient robots, embodying a synergy of biological and mechanical engineering.

Akanksha Gaur
Akanksha Gaur
Akanksha Sondhi Gaur is a journalist at EFY. She has a German patent and brings a robust blend of 7 years of industrial & academic prowess to the table. Passionate about electronics, she has penned numerous research papers showcasing her expertise and keen insight.

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