Artificial Muscles That Remember

By Neil Savage

Muscle memory is often touted by people trying to teach some physical skill, such as piano playing or yoga. But for Stoyan Smoukov, a researcher in materials science at the University of Cambridge in England, muscle memory is something he’d like to impart to polymers to make them smarter.

So-called smart polymers already exist. One simple type is an ionic electroactive polymer, a kind of artificial muscle. Place two electrodes on certain dielectric materials and turn on the voltage, and the electrodes will attract each other, deforming the polymer. These can be used as soft actuators for manipulating fragile objects, perhaps placing a stent or steering a catheter through a small space in the body. Or, they could form the basis of an artificial muscle in a robot or a prosthetic limb.  …[Read more]