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Resource Database > Artificial Muscles
In virtually all areas of augmentation, requirements and uses for artificial muscles are continuing to crop up. Artificial muscles themselves are in their early stages, but have gone from a theoretical possibility in the early 2000s to a modern reality in many forms. They have driven marathon runners without legs of their own, and robotic systems designed to replicate human gaits. Artificial muscles are responsible for the gap drastically closing in terms of emotional ranges in the faces and movements of androids & gynoids, as well as their very ability to move, itself.

More recently, artificial muscles have made their way internally into the body, in the form of the piezoelectric generators that flex, bend and twist to provide the power to drive the prosthetic as the body moves around it.

Finally, a virtual recreation of the pulsing musculature on an organic form, is helping move VR avatars from the realm of 'living mannequins' into the realm of a realistic, believable interface method, as the apparent movement of muscles below the surface of the skin, operate in tune with the body's movements.


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The visual effect of musculature in VR (0)

The visual effect of muscles moving under the skin in VR applications cannot be understated. In passive VR environments (films and other such media), this visual appearance of musculature has been adopted pretty much across the board in order to greatly enhance the realism and believability of CG characters and synthetic actors. In interactive VR the uptake is lesser, driven by the constraints of real-time rendering more than anything else. Still, the effect when they are used, is dramatic.


Body Reinforcement Muscles (1)

Artificial muscles reinforce the body by means of an artificial exoskeleton placed around an existing form. Both full and partial exoskeletal suits work in the same basic way: A rigid skeleton is moved by artificial musculature which itself pulses in response to the user's own muscles flexing, or, in the cases where that is not possible, tie in to the very pulses of the nervous system itself. In all cases they work to far exceed the natural movement capabilities of the person wearing the exoskeleton.
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Artificial Muscles Constructed From Wax-Filled Nanotech Yarn
Artificial muscles made from nanotech yarns and infused with paraffin wax can lift more than 100,000 times their own weight and generate 85 times more mechanical power than the same size natural muscle, according to scientists at The University of Texas at Dallas and their international team from Australia, China, South Korea, Canada and Brazil.



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Shock Absorbers and Sensory Substrates (2)

Artificial muscle as a shock absorber is a relatively new application of the field, but one which does make sense. Muscles are designed to flex and contract intelligently upon command. With multiple muscles working both with and against one another, their strength and ability to move objects relative to themselves in an impressive variety of ways, is made possible. If you then reverse that, so the force is moving the muscle, they are capable of absorbing significant force from any conceivable direction, without passing much, if any of it on to the body they are attached to.
Applicable Dictionary Entries:  
Peristalsis
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Electroactive Elastomers – Artificial Muscles for Shock Absorption
Electroactive elastomers have been around for a long time. They are atificial muscles which change their form when exposed to an electrical field. However, add in an intelligent processing system, and a clever way of layering the elastomer for alternating power, and you have a very powerful shock absorber capable of taking significant impacts, and doing so for many years.



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Prosthetic Movements (5)

Smart prosthetics that respond directly to the commands of the nervous system are only made possible by the artificial musculature integrated directly into the limb, which moves as the circuitry directs. Without these muscles, the prosthetic would understand the desires of the nervous system, but be unable to act upon them. Unlike in other applications, keeping prosthetic muscles' weight to an absolute minimum is a top priority.
Applicable Dictionary Entries:  
PeristalsisPiezoelectric
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Flexible Power for Prosthetics
Providing power for prosthetic devices has always been somewhat of a tricky endeavour, frought with compromises. Battery packs are heavy, cumbersome and heat up quite significantly. They have to be carefully placed, to avoid upsetting balance, and the weight offset by stripping out material elsewhere.

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Self-Charging Power Cell converts Mechanical Energy into Stored Chemical Energy
A different paradigm in power generation for implants and prosthetics, combines electrical generation and storage in a single thin three-layer flexible ribbon. Piezoelectric in nature, it builds long-term storage into the electrical ggeneration process. No other battery or powersource required.

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Shape Memory Materials, Simulation and Prosthetics
Shape memory alloys are composite materials which can 'remember' a given shape or form, and revert back to it when a charge is passed through them, or they are warmed past a critical point, or another condition is met. They deform then reform, essentially flowing like organic tissue without actually being organic.



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Robotic Embodiment Musculature (1)

Very similar in form and function to prosthetic muscles; the primary difference when considering artificial musculature for robotic uses – as in androids and gynoids – is that most of the weight restrictions for prosthetic parts, are removed. This opens up a wider range of possibilities than for prosthetics.
Applicable Dictionary Entries:  
Peristalsis


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Expressive Muscles with Artificial Hands & Faces (0)

The tiny, complex movements necessary for emotional changes to the face, the visemes of human speech, and the quick, complex gestures of the hands all require radically different musculature parameters to most other uses. Artificial muscles for these tasks must be quick, silent, and accurate, able to work in complex dynamic networks with large numbers of others.


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Artificial Muscle Materials and Methods (7)

What materials are these artificial muscles made out of, and what designs are employed to create artificial musculature of various capabilities? Here we look at as many designs as we could get a hold of, in their detailed construction.
Applicable Dictionary Entries:  
PeristalsisPiezo Phototronics
Piezoelectric
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Artificial Muscle from Fishing Line: Powerful yet Cheap
When we think of artificial muscles, we tend to think of new materials that allow constructs to replicate the function of organic muscles in useful ways. We don't tend to think of existing materials in common usage as a means to create these muscles. After all if they are in common usage, they would already have been tested and discarded, right?

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Meshworm: A robot made of a single Artificial Muscle
Meshworm is the prototype proof of concept for a new type of artificial muscle, based on an in-depth study of the movement patterns of the common earthworm, and shows how it is possible to create a 'soft' robot or prosthetic that is basically a single muscle and very little else.

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Prototype Ionic Artificial Muscle Doubles as a Speaker
A prototype ionic muscle has been created by researchers at Harvard University. Not very strong, yet exceptionally pliant, its main claim to fame is that it can flex thousands of times per second, and being completely non-electronic, is capable at least in theory, of conversing with the neurons of the body in their native ionic tongue.

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Shape Memory Materials, Simulation and Prosthetics
Shape memory alloys are composite materials which can 'remember' a given shape or form, and revert back to it when a charge is passed through them, or they are warmed past a critical point, or another condition is met. They deform then reform, essentially flowing like organic tissue without actually being organic.