Space Age Technology – Synthetic Muscles and Robotics

At European Springs, we love to highlight the many areas where innovative components like our die springs are used, and that means we explore some pretty varied topics. One of our favourite talking-points is the science of robotics, as, quite simply, where would such a discipline be without springs?


However, springs aren't the only necessity in furthering the development of robots, and apparently one of the new wonder-solutions is none other than 'synthetic muscle'. What's more, this advance could well be instrumental in the future of space age robotics. Put simply, these muscles should enable 'more dexterous' movement, and that's a real priority within the field of space exploration.

The Problem of 'Natural Motion'

Mimicking natural motion has been a stumbling block for robot designers for years, and it's fair to say that springs have been very helpful in this area. In terms of prosthetic limbs, springs have been used to cushion impact and enable a more normal, flexible gait. However, the new synthetic muscle – discussed in The Engineer, and masterminded by a US chemist – is a very clever piece of kit indeed.

Synthetic Muscle… and How it Works

Created from electro-active polymer, this material expands and contracts rather like a real muscle would, and a crucial breakthrough has been made in terms of getting the substance to bond to metal electrodes. The secret lies in a plasma solution, which has proved able to actually alter the surface chemistry of metal itself, enabling it to bond more effectively. But does it work in the field?

Well, the project has experienced a lot of success in laboratory and 'earthly' environments. For a start, it can shrug of lethal radiation levels, and given the fact that robots are expected to undertake the tasks that humans can't, that's a really promising start. However, it's yet to see use in outer space, so that's the next box that needs to be ticked. Plans aren't exactly being restrained either, as there's already talk of testing this artificial muscle arrangement on Mars. We'll have to wait and see!

We certainly love to hear about all of the ingenious developments in the field of engineering, even if it's only for the sake of keeping us on our toes! When we hear about the innovations that're coming through, it reminds us to keep pushing for the zenith in our own small field of spring manufacture, and rest assured, not even a space-bound robot is made with more care than our springs and pressings. To find out how we can help you today, contact us by calling +44 (0) 208 663 1800.

European Springs

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