Muscles convert energy into motion more efficiently than any gasoline engine or electric motor. Also, muscles extremely resilient and even heal themselves. Instead of degrading with use, our muscles become stronger the more we work with them.
The advantages of synthetic muscle can truly help humanity so that there were scientists looking forward to it. One of them is Lenore Rasmussen, Principal Investigator for the US National Lab sponsored Synthetic Muscle investigation on the International Space Station. Rasmussen's research is getting closer to its fruition.
Rasmussen has been focusing her efforts on creating a new type of material for making life-like, flexible, strong prosthetic devices that are appealing in both form and function. Her quest has led her to a class of "smart" materials called electroactive polymers. Rasmussen has explained that smart materials react to external stimuli such as light, temperature, and electricity.
Like real muscles, electroactive polymers react to electricity, bending in response to an electrical impulse while real muscles contract. She wanted to find a material that would contract and also expand to effect movement. To develop it, she took any possible candidate and zapped it!
Lenore Rasmussen Personal ResolveShe has a personal reason for her quest. When she was in graduate school, one of her cousins almost lost his foot in an accident with a hay spreader as he worked on his family farm.
- The ones that looked more life-like moved awkwardly, and those that moved well looked artificial.
As the result, her cousin's foot and leg were saved-no prosthetics required-but the whole experience resonated with her deeply.
Now, Lenore Rasmussen finally found the "right stuff". She created - Synthetic Muscle™ - behaves a lot like human muscle, converting electrical potential energy into mechanical motion.
How Does the Synthetic Muscle™ Works?Synthetic Muscle contracts in response to electricity, and by flipping the electric polarity applied, making positive negative, and negative positive. Synthetic Muscle can also get expansion, which human muscles can't do! The result is this material can bend, stretch, and contract or expand in any direction."
What Does All this Have to Do with Space Travel?The synthetic muscle Rasmussen has created could be also used to create humanoid robots that can go where people can't or don't want to go. With ability to mimic human dexterity and mobility, such robots could serve as human assistants in space, nuclear plants, or the military.
The samples are being photographed every 5 to 6 weeks during exposure before returning to Earth in 2016, where they'll be examined to see how they held up.