Gel-based robotic breakthrough 'could aid creation of artificial muscles'

Engineering

A new wearable robotic system incorporating gel-based technology has been developed by Japanese researchers, potentially paving the way for new artificial muscles in future.

The system, created at Shinshu University, consists of plasticised polyvinyl chloride (PVC) gel sandwiched between mesh electrodes, allowing it to flex and contract like a muscle when voltage is applied.

“A new form of gel-based robotics has been developed, which could pave the way for the creation of new artificial muscle technology in future.“

This allows it to be used as a wearable actuator, with researchers able to adjust the level of assistance the device provides by altering the charge.

In a preliminary evaluation, the technology was incorporated into a wearable system to provide a partially paralysed stroke patient with hip joint support while walking. It was shown to enable natural movement, increased step length and decreased muscular activity while the person was walking in a straight line.

Study leader Minoru Hashimoto, a professor of textile science and technology at Shinshu University, said: "The ability to add voltage to PVC gel is especially attractive for high speed movement, and the gel moves with high speed with just a few hundred volts."

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