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New Vanadium Dioxide Artificial Muscle Could Be Good News For Prosthetics

Vanadium dioxide micro artificial muscle could be the future of prosthetics

  • New vanadium dioxide artificial muscle proves to be a thousand of times stronger than biological muscle

  • Vanadium dioxide also used in electronics as conductor/insulator


vanadium dioxide artificial muscle

Vanadium dioxide artificial muscle may be future of prosthetics
Image by Lin Mei

Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have created an artificial muscle using vanadium dioxide.  The new artificial muscle is reportedly a thousand times more powerful than a human muscle, with the ability to throw objects 50 times heavier than itself over five times its length within 60 milliseconds.

Vanadium dioxide is already commended by researchers for the ability to change shape, size, and physical identity.  It is also praised for being an insulator at low temperatures that becomes a conductor at approximately 152 degrees Fahrenheit.  This transition is expected to lead to faster and more energy efficient electronic and optical devices.

When heated, vanadium dioxide contracts along one dimension, while expanding along two others, making it a prime candidate for multi-functional motors and artificial muscles.

vanadium dioxide artificial muscle

Vanadium dioxide artificial muscle
Image at Berkeley Lab

Junqiao Wu, the project’s lead scientist states, “We’ve created a micro-bimorph dual coil that functions as a powerful torsional muscle, driven thermally or electro-thermally by the phase transition of vanadium dioxide.”

The micro-sized artificial muscle was made on a silicon substrate with a V-shaped dual coil of vanadium dioxide and chromium.  Heating the coil allows objects held by the coil to be thrown, or using a proximity sensor causes the coil to push the object away.

The artificial muscle operates on a proximity sensor, similar to biological muscles.  The torsion coil and proximity sensor “allow the device to remotely detect a target and respond by reconfiguring itself to a different shape. This simulates living bodies where neurons sense and deliver stimuli to the muscles and the muscles provide motion.”

Currently, electrical heating is being considered as a method of heating the vanadium dioxide in order to allow it to function as an artificial muscle.  Electrical heating of the artificial muscle may be the selected method due to selective heating being an option.

“With its combination of power and multi-functionality, our micro-muscle shows great potential for applications that require a high level of functionality integration in a small space,” states Wu.

Vanadium Dioxide artificial muscle video courtesy of YouTube

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