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Springy Nanotubes Could Make Artificial Muscles

kdawson posted about 7 years ago | from the strong-like-bull dept.

Biotech 70

moon_monkey writes "Scientists have discovered that carbon nanotubes have remarkable springy properties, which could make them ideal for use in artificial muscles. Currently, electroactive polymers are most commonly used to make artificial muscles, but these lack mechanical robustness. Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute tested the nanotubes by repeatedly squashing them between metal plates. The work is reported in Nature Nanotechnology."

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the man of carbon? (-1, Redundant)

timmarhy (659436) | about 7 years ago | (#19874425)

Fuck i want some bad ass nanotube legs so i can run fast and jump high. the coppas will never catch me

Re:the man of carbon? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19874451)

More likely it will be the case of 'those F*ing nanotech-muscled coppers caught me again with their fast runnin an' high jumpin...'

Re:the man of carbon? (0, Offtopic)

Dude163299 (906461) | about 7 years ago | (#19874459)

so i can run fast and jump high. the "koopa's" will never catch me. There fixed it for ya.

Re:the man of carbon? (1)

utopianfiat (774016) | about 7 years ago | (#19877457)

The Mushroom Kingdom isn't just some dump truck, it's a series of tubes!

Spring Heeled Jack (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19875661)

An interesting read: []

Great shake! (0, Offtopic)

fsmunoz (267297) | about 7 years ago | (#19874487)

Must alaways get an edge to prevent muscle loss and catabolism, so this is the new ideal post-workout shake:

25% Maltodextrin
25% Dextrose
25% Whey Protein Isolate
5% BCAA's
5% Creatine monohydrate
5% L Glutamine
5% Multivitamin
5% Muscle bulding nanotubes

Drink as soon as possible after the workou, if using sauna don't exceed 15 minuted, the nanotubes melt.

Re:Great shake! (3, Informative)

packeteer (566398) | about 7 years ago | (#19874579)

Drinking nanotubes is funny but pretty dangerous. They are so small they can pass through cell membranes and through the blood-brain barrier with the greatest of ease. They end up causing damage as they float through everything in your body. Ill stick with Flax Seed oil as my final 5% of my shake.

Re:Great shake! (1)

fsmunoz (267297) | about 7 years ago | (#19874631)

Yeah, flax seed oil is a safer bet, true. Nanotubes are as you said still a bit unstable - know a guy who grew muscle in his eyebrow due to it - but they show great promise, the creatine of the XXI century some say.

Grow muscle? (4, Interesting)

Don_dumb (927108) | about 7 years ago | (#19874491)

Is there any reason why we can't just grow new muscle fibres outside of the destination body and use those instead of finding a more artifical replacement or do these nano-tubes have an advatange over our tissues?
Forgive my noobness on tissue replacement but I was under the impression that we were on the verge of 'test-tube organs' and if that is the case why not artificially grown muscle tissue?

Re:Grow muscle? (5, Insightful)

iktos (166530) | about 7 years ago | (#19874507)

What "destination body"? This is for machines.

Re:Grow muscle? (1)

Don_dumb (927108) | about 7 years ago | (#19874555)

Are you sure, the article (and summary) seemed to suggest human prosthetics, or have I misunderstood this completely?

Re:Grow muscle? (2, Interesting)

iktos (166530) | about 7 years ago | (#19874691)

Sorry, I was probably too brief. You're of course right regarding prosthetics and it does mention implantation.

But I think the term "artifical tissue" in this case does not mean the same thing as it usually does, when it's biological in nature like skin and bone replacements which either becomes part of the recipient or allows own new cells to grow in place. A plastic actuator seems to be something quite different.

Re:Grow muscle? (1)

Ceriel Nosforit (682174) | about 7 years ago | (#19875471)

Might be for machines... But soon I'll be just one hack away from becoming The Strongest Geek in the Universe!!

Re:Grow muscle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19876355)

So you'll be, like, almost to the level of a high-school jock.
; )

Re:Grow muscle? (1)

fractoid (1076465) | about 7 years ago | (#19883839)

Actually, once they get out of highschool, a decent percentage (maybe 10-20%?) of nerds/geeks/techies/whatever actually get themselves a gym membership and bulk up. Often they end up bigger and stronger than said highschool jocks, because they learn good technique and know about nutrition and efficient workout strategies.

Re:Grow muscle? (1)

zobier (585066) | about 7 years ago | (#19895823)

Do you have any good sources of information other than JFGoogleIt relating to said techniques and strategies.

Re:Grow muscle? (1)

fractoid (1076465) | about 7 years ago | (#19911551)

Obviously IANAFI (fitness instructor) and this isn't medical advice, yada yada, but... Basically your muscles grow when you repeatedly overstress them. It's pretty simple. If you have a protein-poor diet (for instance I'm vegetarian, most of my protein intake is from milk products and eggs so I take protein shakes) then look into whey protein-based supplements, just make sure you try before you buy because some of them taste absolutely foul.

Work out 2-3 times a week, minimum, if you're doing full body workouts. If you want results fast, work out 6 times a week and do two different muscle pairs per workout. Always work opposing groups equally (for instance, bicep curls and triceps extensions, bench press and horizontal row etc.) so you stay balanced and don't screw up posture and joints. Use free weights were possible rather than resistance training machines because they build up your control muscles more (at one point I could 'bench' over 120kg on a machine, at that time I could only do 80kg with a free bench press).

Do three sets of 8-12 reps on the highest weight you can lift for at least 12 reps. When on the third set you can do a full 8 reps, you're probably ready to go up on weights. If you want to build size more than strength, do a larger number (12-15 reps) at lower weight. Mix things up a bit to keep yourself interested and to stop yourself getting into too much of a routine. Focus on technique rather than raw numbers, good technique will pay off substantially later on in terms of pace of progress and lower chance of injuries.

Once you get to higher weights (15kg+ per hand for bicep curls, 60kg+ bench was when I started), warm up with a set at a lower weight, say half your maximum. Get a spotter for bench press, in fact a gym partner in general is a good thing to keep you motivated. If you work out solo it's easy to say "I'll skip today and go twice tomorrow" but if you've told someone you'll meet them there, it's easier to set yourself a routine which in turn pushes you to turn up.

Don't expect results for a month or more. I found I got pretty much nothing (apart from pain :P ) for the first month, then started making rapid progress, you have to keep it up until your body realises life's changed and gets its ass into gear.

At any rate, if you join a half-decent gym, you should be told all this stuff by a trainer at your introductory interview. Don't be afraid to ask them about your technique and workout routines, that's their job. :)

Further reading: [] .

Re:Grow muscle? (1)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | about 7 years ago | (#19874517)

"Is there any reason why we can't just grow new muscle fibres..?"

Because they usually don't want to uses those "muscles" inside a human body (so an electric-powered muscle is far more convienient than a blood powered one) and, with the right material, you could build muscles far more resistant than organic ones.

Re:Grow muscle? (1)

iktos (166530) | about 7 years ago | (#19874559)

One mentioned use actually is "artificial tissue for implantation", so inside isn't out of the question, but I don't think they mean implantation in the sense of making it part of the recipent.

I think it might be things like a pump which works like a heart, but electrically powered. Machine, but if it works like muscle tissue it does a better job and will have a longer service life.

Re:Grow muscle? (2, Informative)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | about 7 years ago | (#19874705)

Yes, using artificial muscle as actual muscular replacement might be a reality in a couple decades, but last time I heard of that, it was inpratictable at large scale (they made a full working atropomorphic arm and hand with electroactive polymers muscles, but it was way heavier than a flesh and bone arm and required a permanent electric power supply.

On the other hand, heart pumps already exist since a long time and usually use a plain simple electric engine with batteries.

What I understand from TFA is that this new technology allows to build mecanical devices that could move differently from pneumatic, hydraulic or electric actuator and therefore, provide an alternative to some specific sets of problems in robotic motion. It might be a base of future cyberpunk-like body reconstruction or enhancement, but it is too early to tell.

Re:Grow muscle? (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | about 7 years ago | (#19874607)

Rejection, for one example. The human immune system is pretty paranoid when it encounters anything foreign and organic, such as a transplant. My knowledge of biology comes mostly from Wikipedia [] , so I don't know what happens to inorganic implants, but I would guess they don't cause that problem because the body doesn't recognize them as tissue.

Not having to artificially knock out your immunity with medication for a long time after an operation (if it works at all) would be a big plus.

Re:Grow muscle? (1)

turtledawn (149719) | about 7 years ago | (#19877259)

Non-organic transplant materials end up covered in a layer of cartilage and collagen connective tissues. The body recognizes the implants as foreign, but can't find any antigens to react to in a normal fashion and so it isolates the intruding item from circulation instead. Materials that pass testing for use in implants are those that induce the formation of the smallest possible layer.

Re:Grow muscle? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19874669)

There are a few reasons. One is the fact that American researchers still have a hard time doing proper stem cell work, so creating new organs is not such a great line of study. Another is potential rejection of foreign tissue.

A third is the fact that the people working on this are not in the field of direct tissue engineering (yeah, I am at RPI typing this, I am down the hall from a bunch of the people who wrote the paper). They are mostly Materials Engineers, they are working within their area of study.

Actually, I think I saw them running the test... Not quite as exciting in person, you need some imagination to turn their research into artificial muscles. That being said, it does have some nice properties that I can see aiding in such an endeavor.

Re:Grow muscle? (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | about 7 years ago | (#19876151)

Actually, I think I saw them running the test... Not quite as exciting in person

Watching people smash plates on nanotubes would be cool!

Smash, shatter!

Phil, I think you missed. Or not. Where then hell did those nanotubes get to?

Re:Grow muscle? (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about 7 years ago | (#19880069)

I am not sure why American researchers have a hard time doing stem cell work, except that the government only funds a limited number of cell lines. If you want to work with other cell lines you need to find another funding source...Boo hoo.

Re:Grow muscle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19880457)

You say that like it is terribly easy to get another funding source. Here in real life, having any government funding restricts the lines you can use and being an academic researcher with no government funding is not as easy task.

I am not saying work isn't done, but it is not as easy as working on a project where all you need to do is prove your field has merit. Stem cell researchers in the US are either badly restricted, or giving up one of the more common sources for funding

Re:Grow muscle? (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about 7 years ago | (#19881321)

Yes, that was terribly evil of George W. to restrict what he would fund, since before that they could study any cell line they wanted and use NO government money at all. George W. Bush (that Fundamentalist) decided to change the policy on a politically controversial subject from Bill Clinton's enlightened philosophy and fund some stem cell research, oh that evil man He would have been better off to follow Bill Clinton's example and not fund any stem cell research.

Why not have other methods... (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 7 years ago | (#19874727)

There is nothing wrong of having alternative methods of fixing people. Grown Muscles in a testtube may be great and perhaps even better then Nantotubs but there could exist people who this type of process is incompatable with them, but Nanotubes will work better. As well as we begin NanoTechnology and building more and more active components I don't see why we wounldn't be able to make our bodies more efficient with replacement parts.

Re:Grow muscle? (2)

khallow (566160) | about 7 years ago | (#19880515)

Hmmm, if these carbon nanotubes have similar properties to regular carbon nanotubes, then you probably would have considerably more strength available for the same volume and mass. Also, they apparently can use electric power. So they could be powered off of more efficiency power sources than human food. So they're not "natural", but there is the potential for superior mechanical properties with these.

Alright! (1)

sugapablo (600023) | about 7 years ago | (#19874511)

No more steroids! []

That's not the effect of steroids... (1)

mario_grgic (515333) | about 7 years ago | (#19876121)

That guy is injecting oil directly into his muscle tissue causing his arms to bulge at the injection site only leading to it to look completely anatomically incorrect, unlike steroid users who just get bigger muscles everywhere.

Re:That's not the effect of steroids... (1)

sugapablo (600023) | about 7 years ago | (#19876437)

I don't know about the oil thing, but Valentino is quite open about his steroid abuse, used to get the "biggest arms in the world".

Insert joke here (4, Funny)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | about 7 years ago | (#19874535)

A Nano-Tube article right next to a Ted Steven's article.

Re:Insert joke here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19874587)

First Nanotube prosthetic penis joke!

Re:Insert joke here (1)

Mikkeles (698461) | about 7 years ago | (#19874605)


Carbon tubes for a strong intarweb!

Re:Insert joke here (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | about 7 years ago | (#19874861)

How soon before I start getting spam for nanotubes as an alternative to Viagra?

How many nanotubes will it take to make my standard metric tube into a Gigatube?

Re:Insert joke here (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | about 7 years ago | (#19875173)

A muscle is not something you can just pull stuff with. It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes!

This was funny before I posted it, I swear.

Re:Insert joke here (1)

poetmatt (793785) | about 7 years ago | (#19875199)

So the muscles are a series of tubes?

dialup? (1)

Moraelin (679338) | about 7 years ago | (#19875605)

If it's a NANO-tube, I'd say he's on dialup.

Re:Insert joke here OK, I'll bite... (1)

davidsyes (765062) | about 7 years ago | (#19877103)

I wonder what this will do to the business models built around Enzyte (no more smiling Bob) or Viagra (slowing down their taps...)....

Why are we working for Artificial Muscles? (4, Funny)

Pionus (1128701) | about 7 years ago | (#19874611)

People who would need Artificial Muscles are a small minority. We need to improve the lives of the majority people. Imagine the joy that a enhanced nanotube superball or silly putty could bring to the world!

Re:Why are we working for Artificial Muscles? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19874617)

And why would you think they're doing this research for people ? It could be useful to solve many mechanical problems.

Re:Why are we working for Artificial Muscles? (1)

niceone (992278) | about 7 years ago | (#19874629)

People who would need Artificial Muscles are a small minority

Sure, but think how much more overlordly our new robotic overlords will be once they've been kitted out with durable carbon nanotube artificial muscles. I welcome this.

Re:Why are we working for Artificial Muscles? (2, Funny)

Icarus1919 (802533) | about 7 years ago | (#19874643)

Yes, but that is just you for one.

Re:Why are we working for Artificial Muscles? (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | about 7 years ago | (#19874799)

People who would need Artificial Muscles are a small minority. We need to improve the lives of the majority people. Imagine the joy that a enhanced nanotube superball or silly putty could bring to the world!

Not only that -- imagine the joy it will bring to kids when the word becomes mainstream, and they adopt it as a new insult for other kids.

Early adopters (1)

dgr73 (1055610) | about 7 years ago | (#19874681)

I wonder what the adult toy industry will do with this. I could probably hazard a few guesses, but children might be reading this thread.

Re:Early adopters (1)

Repossessed (1117929) | about 7 years ago | (#19877315)

/me ponders.

Okay, I need a patent lawyer and an engineer.

Re:Early adopters (1)

justinlee37 (993373) | about 7 years ago | (#19879897)

God forbid they learn what their genitals are for or something.

springy properties.. (1)

shutupkevin (1127139) | about 7 years ago | (#19874761)

carbon nanotubes have remarkable springy properties So now we can create artificial erections?!? Sign me up!

Re:springy properties.. (4, Funny)

Icarus1919 (802533) | about 7 years ago | (#19874771)

If your erections are remarkably springy, I strongly advise you to stop posting and go see a doctor. You two have a lot to discuss.

Another "Nanotubes Magic Coming Soon!" article (1)

Amtiskaw (591171) | about 7 years ago | (#19874793)

I hear Duke Nukem Forever will be made using carbon nanotubes.

How about those dolls? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19874823)

I wonder if these muscles can ever be inflatable ;-)

Other applications... (1)

Wiarumas (919682) | about 7 years ago | (#19874875)

Other applications... space elevator.
Cue Sci Fi theme music.

Re:Other applications... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19875021)

Or better yet: Battlemechs.
Yippie! I want my giant fighting robot!

Re:Other applications... (1)

TeamSPAM (166583) | about 7 years ago | (#19875159)

Space elevators would be nice, but I want a BattleMech! [] :-)

Zebedee? (1)

denzacar (181829) | about 7 years ago | (#19877783)

Springy propulsion could doo wonders for ones carbon footprint?

Cue The Magic Roundabout theme...

Smart carbon nanotubes could make artificial brain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19875087)

Is there anything that can't be done by <insert adjective here> carbon nanotubes?

Re:Smart carbon nanotubes could make artificial br (0, Flamebait)

not-admin (943926) | about 7 years ago | (#19875339)

They can't make your post funny.

Love? (1)

denzacar (181829) | about 7 years ago | (#19877427)

Yeah, sure... carbon nanotubes can give you springy erections but can they give you love?

Nano technology signatures... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19875147)

... have been detected. Alter course to intercept.

*Gigantic cube entering Warp 9, through a couple of transwarp conduits, a couple of moments later... Gigantic weird cube leaving transwarp conduit*

"We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance i futile."

Great... one thing closer to eternal life.

Re:Nano technology signatures... (1)

binaryvixen (1110509) | about 7 years ago | (#19875979)

Collective consciousness would be a blessing and a curse... it would make marriage a hell of a lot easier!
Back to the topic, I find it amazing how fast science is advancing these days (I am a newbie to most things tech) and all surgical procedures carry health risks, but hopefully the benefits will outweigh the downside (if any) and will enhance the lives of those with artificial muscles. Another great achievement in my opinion.

I would have loved some Nanotube Silly Putty as a kid.

World of Tomorrow! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19875883)

With this news, we shall see Battlemech's, BattleTech is a wargaming and science fiction franchise, launched by FASA Corporation and currently owned by WizKids. And they have the same basic idea, myomers! #Myomer_fiber []

Artificial Muscles better than normal? (3, Funny)

Apocalypse111 (597674) | about 7 years ago | (#19876359)

With normal muscle tissue, strength increases proportional to cross-sectional area, while the weight of both the muscle itself and the object being lifted increases proportional to volume * density. Thus, weight can easily outstrip the ability of a muscle to lift it. This is one of the determining factors in why we do not see giant monsters, as they would be unable to lift their own bodies.

So, were this new artificial muscle to be developed, would it be constrained by the cross-sectional area rule that normal muscles adhere to? Feasibility and practicality aside, could this be one of the major stepping stones toward having my own giant robot?

Re:Artificial Muscles better than normal? (1)

cosminb (1128873) | about 7 years ago | (#19878175)

I might be wrong, but didn't dinosaurs populate the world a while back? And, afaik, they weren't tiny little creatures. :)

Re:Artificial Muscles better than normal? (1)

Apocalypse111 (597674) | about 7 years ago | (#19880331)

Hehe, true enough, I guess I should have thought of that before I posted. To be more specific, I was talking about bipedal monsters and robots. If I remember things right, the only reason dino's could be that big was due to their quadrupedal nature, and its for this same reason that there is a debate on how T-Rex's walked, and whether or not it was a scavenger because, by our understanding, it was likely too slow to catch much of anything.

I mean, who wants a slow quadrupedal robot? I want a fast humanoid one!

Didn't see mention of muscle in the abstract (1)

fljmayer (985663) | about 7 years ago | (#19876757)

How do artificial muscles come into this? I didn't see any mention of muscle in the abstract, just 'artificial tissue' and 'electrical contacts'. The elastic behavior is wonderful, but how do you pump energy into those nanotubes to make them expand or compress?

Re:Didn't see mention of muscle in the abstract (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19883055)

The short answer: you don't.

The slightly longer answer:

When carbon nanotubes(CNT's) are dispersed througout a polymer matrix, they can impart some of their properties on the polymer. Most research in the past focused on the electrical properties that could be obtained by dispersing CNT's into polymers. In general, less research of the mechanical properties of CNT's has been performed that on the electrical properties of CNT's.

So, in order to use the CNT's in an artificial muscle, one would presumably disperse some CNT's into an EAP in such a way as to impart the CNT's ability to resist fatigue onto the polymer. Some open questions would be: how long should the CNT's be, what diameter should they be, should they be single-walled or multi-walled, etc.?

Now, why did they observe this behavior with "forests" of CNT's and not with single ones? My theory (I should have a paper published in Phys. Rev. B soon regarding the bending stiffness of graphene): Single walled CNT's are not very stiff. As such, they buckle easily. An interesting thing happens if you nest CNT's inside of eachother (creating a multi-walled CNT). The MWCNT is much stiffer than the SWCNT. The reason for this the is the intermolecular Van der Waal's forces between the individual carbon atoms of the different nanotubes. I would theorize that the nanotubes in the experiment are close enough that the intermolecular forces are imparting more ridigity onto the CNT's (as part of my research, I showed that changing the intermolecular force can change the "effective" bending stiffness of a nano-scale structure. The result of the increased ridigity is that the Young's Modulus in increased and, therefore, the critical buckling load is increased.

Oh my gawd... Is that, like... umm totally (1)

davidsyes (765062) | about 7 years ago | (#19877995)

tubular, or is that

One of many artificial muscle materials (2, Informative)

200_success (623160) | about 7 years ago | (#19878195)

Carbon nanotubes are one of many materials that can be made into artificial muscles. This has been known for a few years. For a comparison of technologies, see [] .

Rod Logic Anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19879681)

Aha Springs for Rod Logic finally...
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