Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

NASA's Invention of the Year Award Goes to Synthetic Muscles

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the we're-so-close-to-cyborgs dept.

NASA 49

coondoggie writes "It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie: technology that can act like muscle and nerves to expand and contract. The invention has been named the NASA Government Invention of the Year for 2007. 'The Macro-Fiber Composite, or MFC, is made up of ceramic fibers and can be attached to a structure to bend it, reduce vibrations and monitor force. By applying voltage to the MFC, the ceramic fibers change shape to expand or contract and turn the resulting force into a bending or twisting action on the material. MFC technology could also find its way into inflatable space structures can be used for antennas, communication satellites, space station trusses, and solar sail support structures, NASA said.'"

cancel ×

49 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Great, one more researcher to track down. (5, Funny)

GLowder (622780) | more than 6 years ago | (#21789258)

Great, this is one more researcher we'll have to send someone back in time to knock off. The list of people that put forth inventions leading to the machines taking over the earth keeps expanding.

battlemechs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21789272)

when we can we start building them? XD

Prosthetics (0, Redundant)

Merls the Sneaky (1031058) | more than 6 years ago | (#21789280)

Prosthetics could really benefit from this.

Bullet-time comes to Prosthetics. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21789342)

Rate of contraction could be an issue.

Re:Prosthetics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21793214)

yay braindead mods didn't RTFA. There was no mention of prosthetics in TFA therefore parent is not "redundant".

yeah, but.. (0, Flamebait)

xubu_caapn (1086401) | more than 6 years ago | (#21789302)

can i fuck anything because of this?

Re:yeah, but.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21789392)

You can fuck this guy [ripway.com] [goatse]

Also an energy generation device (4, Interesting)

sweet_petunias_full_ (1091547) | more than 6 years ago | (#21789322)

"By applying voltage to the MFC, the ceramic fibers change shape to expand or contract and turn the resulting force into a bending or twisting action on the material. Likewise, voltage is generated in proportion to the force applied to the MFC material"

That means that you could attach these to trees, swaying skyscrapers, radio towers, etc., and these things would start generating energy just from their natural motion.

Re:Also an energy generation device (2, Insightful)

Cairnarvon (901868) | more than 6 years ago | (#21789420)

And since that motion is caused by the wind, it'd be the most expensive wind turbine on the market. And probably the least efficient.

Also an energy generation device-Congress. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21789540)

It would most likely be used were wind turbines are impractical, but a benefit could be gained without too much trouble.

Re:Also an energy generation device (1)

sweet_petunias_full_ (1091547) | more than 6 years ago | (#21794812)

I hope this does not rattle the windmill lobby's cage, but if a structure is going to be built either way, and if it constantly vibrates due to wind movements, putting a windmill on top of it might not be as great a solution as adding strands of this stuff to it.

Efficiency might not be the only consideration, as you may not be interested in maximizing energy output necessarily. You might be more interested in getting enough energy for the MFC to pay for itself, and that the structure doesn't fall over while you're doing it :/

Re:Also an energy generation device (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21789426)

And they could dodge lightning!

Re:Also an energy generation device (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21793984)

And twist into some really weird shapes if struck by lightning.

Old news (3, Insightful)

ThreeGigs (239452) | more than 6 years ago | (#21789380)

Older Than That (2, Interesting)

lcreech (1491) | more than 6 years ago | (#21790642)

I had the idea of creating synthetic muscles over 25 years ago when pvf2 (polyvinyl fluoride) first came out. It is a piezoelectric plastic that is less fragile than ceramic. And no I didn't patent it since I never got around to it.

Larry C.

Re:Older Than That (1)

nwssa (993577) | more than 6 years ago | (#21792786)

If you had patented it 25 years ago then it may have spawned further innovations along the way AND the original patent would have been in the public domain 5 years ago.

Yes, old news. Why is NASA hyping this now? (4, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21791614)

This stuff has been around since at least 2002. You can buy it commercially. [smart-material.com]

Here's a video. [smart-material.com] This is still a small-movement actuator. Piezoelectric devices are usually good for a maximum strain of about 0.1%, and this stuff gets up to 0.45%. This has minor uses, but it's a long way from being an "artificial muscle", which requires strain values around maybe 20%. This won't replace the hydraulic cylinder any time soon.

There are other materials with more promise for artificial muscles. See Artificial Muscle, Inc. [artificialmuscle.com] , which has a polymer-based material which changes length when electricity is applied. This is being used in auto-focus cameras, and they're working towards valve actuators in appliances, automotive fuel pumps, and similar short-travel applications.

Re:Yes, old news. Why is NASA hyping this now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21793566)

Dammit and her I was hoping the realdoll might start using this :(

Re:Old news (1)

Goldsmith (561202) | more than 6 years ago | (#21791988)

The basic piezoelectric effect (movement from applied voltage and voltage from applied movement) was discovered in the late 19th century. You can get piezoelectric crystals all over the place. Quartz crystal watches use this stuff.

I'm wondering what exactly "Macro-Fiber Composite" means. In those blurbs they talk about creating single crystal MFCs, how do you get a single crystal composite? I wonder why they don't put their papers online since they're publicly available.

Re:Old news (1)

lazy genes (741633) | more than 6 years ago | (#21792462)

The Adams family had one that was shaped like a hand that came out of a box.

Re:Old news (1)

Walt Dismal (534799) | more than 6 years ago | (#21793350)

This might explain some sightings of remarkably shape-changing, flexible-structure airborne objects - I will not say UFOs because that has crackpot connotations. But if this has been around long enough, we undoubtedly have some interesting black-budget aircraft architectures out there.

Also coming to mind when I read this was, 'hey, this could be perfect for realizing the octopoid robotic tentacles of 1950's science fiction magazine cover fame". And Doctor Octopus, too. And...um...sexual prosthetics..er, not that there's anything wrong with that...um...foot shuffle..gulp

A *BSD Carol (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21789386)

"Spirit," said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, "tell me if *BSD will live."

"I see a vacant seat," replied the Ghost, "in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, *BSD will die."

"No, no," said Scrooge. "Oh, no, kind Spirit! say it will be spared."

"If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race," returned the Ghost, "will find him here. What then? If it be like to die, it had better do it, and decrease the surplus operating system population."

Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief. It was sad to see any operating system die, even one so obviously flawed and useless as *BSD.

God bless us, every one.

Re:A *BSD Carol (1)

Derosian (943622) | more than 6 years ago | (#21789496)

Totally offtopic... But I would hardly call BSD entirely dead. I just sold a near mint condition BSD OS/386 for 40+ on Ebay. That is 10 year old software...

I don't know about you but when something becomes rare enough it becomes alive in a whole new way.

They should have named it "Myomer"... (2)

MachDelta (704883) | more than 6 years ago | (#21789418)

...'cuz I want my own freakin BattleMech!

Or at least, MechWarrior was the first thing I thought of when I read this story. Not something more practical like artificial limbs. Hmm... I may need to get out more.

Re:They should have named it "Myomer"... (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 6 years ago | (#21789428)

same here

i want my shadow hawk

Re:They should have named it "Myomer"... (1)

downix (84795) | more than 6 years ago | (#21789712)

Now now, we have to have the Mackie first!

Re:They should have named it "Myomer"... (1)

Shabadage (1037824) | more than 6 years ago | (#21791160)

Mackie's are only good if you're a pissed off Smoke Jaguar who's about to sell out his clan.

Re:They should have named it "Myomer"... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21791270)

No, you first have to have a R&D crew headed by someone named "Dr. Atlas" inadvertently fling a test weight through the ceiling of the testing chamber because they underestimated the myomer's power.
 
/bigger BT geek than you

Re:They should have named it "Myomer"... (1)

lowem (899426) | more than 6 years ago | (#21790852)

And I expected the Battlemech comment to make first post or thereabouts. Not too many old fogeys like us around, are there.

Re:They should have named it "Myomer"... (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 6 years ago | (#21790982)

Pah. Add a nanolathe and we'll start talking. The DGun is completely optional.

Re:They should have named it "Myomer"... (1)

Massacrifice (249974) | more than 6 years ago | (#21795908)

You are confusing NASA with FASA.

That said, I shall Death-From-Above you with my jet-modified Marauder.

Re:They should have named it "Myomer"... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21796464)

My first thought was "Finally, I can start building my own BattleMech. Now, if I could just find that PPC I need..."

What about? (1)

ms1234 (211056) | more than 6 years ago | (#21789464)

Can it be made into a spaceship that can change shape?

We need the material to behave the otherway (1)

Anonimouse (934959) | more than 6 years ago | (#21789478)

"MFC technology could also find its way into inflatable space structures can be used for antennas, communication satellites, space station trusses, and solar sail support structures" Brilliant, so in the event of a power failure, your structure ends up looking like an empty shopping bag. What is really required is a material that relaxes when a voltage is applied. That way during power failure the only issue is not being able to extend a structure and not having to fear the structure turns into Spaghetti.

Crysis (1)

tripmine (1160123) | more than 6 years ago | (#21789558)

Synthetic muscles remind me of "Maximum Strength [youtube.com] ."
When I first saw the trailer for Crysis, I thought it was deodorant.

Synthetic Muscles would be nice... (1)

distantbody (852269) | more than 6 years ago | (#21789804)

...but just answer me this: Is it possible for species/human to evolve a metallic skeleton ala wolverine?

Re:Synthetic Muscles would be nice... (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 6 years ago | (#21790996)

Only if you have enough metals in your nutrition... Which would currently kill you.

Re:Synthetic Muscles would be nice... (2, Funny)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 6 years ago | (#21791198)

Metallic skeleton? Who needs a metallic skeleton when you can build your own catgirl! =^_^=

Re:Synthetic Muscles would be nice... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21792088)

...metallic skeleton ala wolverine?
Calcium is a metal.

Re:Synthetic Muscles would be nice... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21794736)

Would it be too geeky to point out that Wolverine's metallic skeleton isn't his actual evolved power - that's his regeneration ability, which allowed him to survive the procedure that gave him the metallic skeleton?

So much for all the pundits ... (2, Funny)

LaughingCoder (914424) | more than 6 years ago | (#21790080)

... who said MFC was dead!

This sounds a lot like ... (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21790386)

much of the technology portrayed in the Stargate universe. I'm particularly reminded of the Ancient archive that grew out of a well and grabbed Col. O'Neil's head.

You Fail It?! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21791348)

*BSD is dead. recent Sys Admin A popular 'news Geeting together to During play, this

Cheap Robots for MicroSurgery or Assembly (1)

Simonetta (207550) | more than 6 years ago | (#21792394)

I've been thinking about using this type of material that shrinks, expands, or twists under voltage for robots. Small, precise, and especially cheap robots.

    IF (and that's a big if here folks,) the material can be made to repeatedly move in precise quantifiable intervals then it would be a boom for micro robots.

    For example, micro surgery. Having a dual joystick-like control that moves a micro knife or cellular glue stick 0.1mm for every centimeter movement of the controller in the doctor or med tech's hand.

    Or testing a circuit board with high density Quad Flat Pack ICs with 100+ pins to an inch. A miniature robot-controlled oscilloscope probe that moves from pin to pin under the technician's keyboard control.

    Take thin strips of the material and arrange them into cylinders. By placing precise voltages on each of the strips (say 100 strips arranged into one centimeter in diameter), the cylinder becomes a robotic probe with extremely flexible and precise control of movement. Without using motors or servos.

    I look forward to more research and development in this field.

What? Outrageous! (1)

chrism238 (657741) | more than 6 years ago | (#21792972)

What, synthetic rubbish? This is outrageous!
Hello? NASA? Have you even heard of the iPhone?

It may have scientific uses, but (2)

adona1 (1078711) | more than 6 years ago | (#21794066)

NASA is totally going to make a fortune if they enter the sex-doll industry with this :)

Re:It may have scientific uses, but (1)

the monolith (1174927) | more than 6 years ago | (#21794930)

And they are intending to use it to 'erect' antennas in space... Only? I can think of another use for an erecting mechanism.
Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>