Artificial muscles inspired by cucumber tendrils could have applications in both robotics and medical devices.
The muscles were developed by a team from MIT based on the coiling and pulling mechanism of cucumber tendrils. The fiber-based system overcomes many of the previous challenges of artificial muscles, such as weight and slow response, and features two different polymers with very different thermal expansion coefficients that have been woven into a single strand. When exposed to higher temperatures (such as body heat), the coiled fiber will coil even tighter—exerting a pulling force that increases when the temperature rises. The fiber will return to its original length when the temperature cools, and the process can be repeated more than 10,000 times without a reduction in performance.