Towards Artificial Muscles

Via ScienceDaily: researchers "have demonstrated that artificial muscles can restore the ability of patients with facial paralysis to blink ... the technique, which uses a combination of electrode leads and silicon polymers, could be used to develop synthetic muscles to control other parts of the body. ... electroactive polymer artificial muscle (EPAM) [is] an emerging technology that has the potential for use in rehabilitating facial movement in patients with paralysis. Electroactive polymers act like human muscles by expanding and contracting, based on variable voltage input levels. ... Facial muscles require relatively low forces, much less than required to move the fingers or flex an arm. ... The three-layered artificial muscle was developed by engineers [in] the 1990s. Inside is a piece of soft acrylic or silicon layered with carbon grease. When a current is applied, electrostatic attractions causes the outer layers to pull together and squash the soft center. This motion expands the artificial muscle. The muscle contracts when the charge is removed and flattens the shape of the sling, blinking the eye. ... researchers are now refining the technique on cadavers and animal models. They estimate the technology will be available for patients within the next five years."


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