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IIT Kanpur builds bio-inspired artificial muscle for space robots, medical prostheses

IIT Kanpur artificial muscle
IIT-K claims that the technology could increase the affordability of high-performance systems like MRI Scanner, CT scanners, surgical robots, etc.


A team at the Indian Institute of Technology, or IIT, Kanpur announced on Tuesday the development of a bio-inspired artificial muscle for next-generation space robots and medical prostheses.


According to a release by the institute, due to the relatively simple architecture of the actuation mechanism, the existing shape memory alloy, or SMA, actuators have limited scope in terms of higher force or torque output.


The team at IIT-K addressed this limitation and has expanded the design space of the SMA actuator by leveraging the characteristics of bi-pennate muscle architecture with about 70% enhanced muscle force output per unit weight.


An actuator’s primary goal is to generate mechanical output, such as force and displacement, by transforming electrical energy, the release added. SMAs, which are a class of smart materials, can restore their shape after being exposed to high temperatures.


Due to its customizable multi-stage hierarchy of the shape memory, researchers will be encouraged to use the SMA-based bio-inspired muscle design in robotic prostheses.


The institute claims that the technology will also help reduce the cost of biomedical devices and could increase the affordability of high-performance systems like MRI Scanner, CT scanners, surgical robots, etc. while enabling the development of patient rooms with low maintenance and quieter operation.


“Shape memory alloy (SMA) based actuators are considered better alternatives to the conventional actuators, although it has some limitations,” said Prof. Abhay Karandikar, Director, IIT Kanpur


“Researchers at the SMSS Lab at IIT Kanpur worked upon those limitations and has developed this unique shape memory alloy-based bio-inspired muscle design that holds the potential to revitalize the Space Robotics and bio-medical technology industry,” he added.


“This invention will not only result in the development of Next Gen Space Robots and Medical Prostheses, but will also help aviation and some other industries. In a way, it will help make multiple sectors self-reliant and more advanced in the long run,” he added.


The technology has industrial applications such as HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) flow control for smart buildings and autos, as well as optimizing solar panel performance, efficient turbine design for aircraft uses, and autonomous control of aircraft wings.

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