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Biodegradable Artificial Muscles: The Future of Sustainable Robotics

Mar. 23, 2023.
1 min. read 2 Interactions

Going green in robotics: Scientists create biodegradable artificial muscles with sustainable impact.

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Lewis Farrell

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Highly curious about things that increase my awareness, expand my perception, and make me open to being a better person.

A group of international researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Johannes Kepler University, and the University of Colorado created a fully biodegradable, high-performance artificial muscle out of gelatin, oil, and bioplastics. The scientists demonstrated the potential for this technology to be used in single-use applications such as waste collection, search-and-rescue missions, and hazardous substance manipulation by animating a robotic gripper with biodegradable technology. When the artificial muscles reach the end of their useful life, they can be disposed of in municipal compost bins, where they will biodegrade completely within six months.

The primary requirement for these electrically driven artificial muscles is that the materials used to construct the plastic pouch and oil be electrical insulators capable of withstanding the high electrical stresses generated by the charged electrodes. One of the project’s challenges was to create a conductive, soft, and completely biodegradable electrode. Researchers at Johannes Kepler University developed a recipe based on a biopolymer gelatin and salt mixture that can be directly cast onto the artificial muscles.

This project is a significant step forward in soft robotics, promoting sustainability and paving the way for a future of sustainable robotic technology. The team’s research project encourages the robotics community to consider biodegradable materials as a viable option for robot construction. The researchers’ success with bio-plastics inspires other material scientists to develop new materials with optimized electrical performance in mind. The potential of these biodegradable artificial muscles is exciting because they can have a significant societal impact while not having a significant environmental impact after use.

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Images: MidJourney, Prompts by Lewis Farrell

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