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May 1, 2006

"U. T. Dallas nanotechnologists demonstrate artificial muscles powered by highly energetic fuels."

RICHARDSON, Texas (March 16, 2006) — University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) nanotechnologists have made alcohol- and hydrogen-powered artificial muscles that are 100 times stronger than natural muscles, able to do 100 times greater work per cycle and produce, at reduced strengths, larger contractions than natural muscles. Among other possibilities, these muscles could enable fuel-powered artificial limbs, “smart skins” and morphing structures for air and marine vehicles, autonomous robots having very long mission capabilities and smart sensors that detect and self-actuate to change the environment.

While humans on long, strenuous missions are able to carry the food that powers their bodies, today’s most athletically capable robots cannot freely move about, since they are wired to stationary electrical power sources. Though batteries can be used for autonomous robots, they store too little energy and deliver it at too low a rate for prolonged or intense activity. To solve these problems, the team from UTD’s NanoTech Institute developed two different types of artificial muscles that, like natural muscles, convert the chemical energy of an energetic fuel to mechanical energy.

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