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Super-Strong Synthetic Muscles Developed 191

Posted by Zonk
from the we-have-the-technology-we-can-rebuild-him dept.
Too Hot! wrote to mention a BBC article about extremely powerful synthetic muscles. From the article: "The most powerful type, 'shorted fuel cell muscles' convert chemical energy into heat, causing a special shape-memory metal alloy to contract. Turning down the heat allows the muscle to relax. Lab tests showed that these devices had a lifting strength more than 100 times that of normal skeletal muscle. Another kind of muscle being developed by the team converted chemical energy into electrical energy which caused a material made from carbon nanotube electrodes to bend."
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Super-Strong Synthetic Muscles Developed

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  • by Mattygfunk1 (596840) * on Sunday March 19, 2006 @05:41AM (#14951345)
    Sure, the synthetic muscles could be used for helping the disabled and equiping special forces, but the bigger picture is the development of the first real Terminator. Now that's geeky progress!

    __
    Funy PORN videos [slashdot.org] @ Laugh DAILY.

  • Good news for grand dad...viagra was putting a big strain on the budget last 4-5 years
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 19, 2006 @05:49AM (#14951358)
    Scientists have developed artificial, super-strength muscles which are powered by alcohol and hydrogen.

    I for one welcome our new Bender overlords.
  • BALCO? (Score:4, Funny)

    by OffTheLip (636691) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @05:50AM (#14951360)
    For some reason Barry Bonds comes to mind when I read the article subject. AS skewed as the sports playing field is now I shudder to think what things might be like once the 'designers' get a hold of something like this. The Tour de France in one day?
    • This stuff is already being used by NFL kickers. [ytmnd.com]
    • AS skewed as the sports playing field is now I shudder to think what things might be like once the 'designers' get a hold of something like this.

      If it means that the professional sport will be finally good for something useful, in this case for betatesting new enhancement technologies, I for one don't see anything wrong there.

  • Yes, but... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by coffeechica (948145) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @05:53AM (#14951363)
    I'm still trying to make up my mind to decide whether this is awesome or frightening. Both, I guess. Because there are so obviously enormous benefits. But on the other hand, when you've grown up on Marvel comics, then any mention of superhuman strength makes me wonder about the potential problems.

    Fancy imagining that kind of technology in the hands of some warlord in a third world country somewhere? Or even in a normal army? I'm not sure it's something I really want to envision.
    • Why put emotion into it? It's pretty simple. People will use it. If you don't you'll get thrown into an airplane. Therefore, better get it implanted. Dead people don't mull over ethics.
    • by aussie_a (778472)
      when you've grown up on Marvel comics, then any mention of superhuman strength makes me wonder about the potential problems.

      Yeah, but if we pay any attention to Marvel comics then everyone would be exposing themselves to radiation in order to get super powers.
    • I'm thinking that until we come up with a good way to reinforce our skeletons, super muscles won't live up to their potential. It's no good having muscles that can pick up an SUV if you snap your bones in the process. The muscles have to anchor to something after all.

  • by Cybert14 (952427) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @05:54AM (#14951366)
    Meaning all of us. I hope we start abandoning our evolved bodies soon. What we'll become will make what we are now seem quite disabled.
    • by Colin Smith (2679) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @06:26AM (#14951404)
      I'm quite sure you've never had sex.

      In the larger interests of mankind perhaps the government should fund sex therapy sessions for all potential mad scientists.

       
    • I hope we start abandoning our evolved bodies soon.

      In case you haven't noticed, we are still arguing whether ours are evolved bodies or intelligently designed bodies. >_> The quick and dirty fix? We can stuff our brains in a jar, bolt it on some kind of robot made up of synthetic muscles and we'll have arguably intelligently, but definitely designed bodies. Case closed.
      • "In case you haven't noticed, we are still arguing whether ours are evolved bodies or intelligently designed bodies."

        Well, it's an argument in that there are some people who, due to a lack of understanding or a passionate need to believe their religious texts are literal truth (or both), are vehemently clinging to the idea that life didn't evolve.

        From a scientific perspective, there is no real argument... the evidence is inescapable.
        • Well, it's an argument in that there are some people who, due to a lack of understanding or a passionate need to believe their religious texts are literal truth (or both), are vehemently clinging to the idea that life didn't evolve. From a scientific perspective, there is no real argument... the evidence is inescapable.

          Yes, of course there is no real argument. Mine was an, obviously bad, attempt for a joke. (oops)

          If you look at it, man is able to create artificial muscles that are a hundred times stronge

      • In case you haven't noticed, we are still arguing whether ours are evolved bodies or intelligently designed bodies.

        Not 'we'. Only the stupid people are arguing about this. Everyone else already knows the answer, more or less. :)
        • Most likely untrue. If you are not a specialist into the theory of evolution, then you are acting on a faith in science coupled with a general yet imprecise knowledge of the process of evolution through natural selction. I am not saying that it is evolution untrue. What I am saying is that evolution is not truly as obvious as you'd like to make it out to be. Sure it is easy to understand that species that have a good genetic fit for their environement are likely to survive better and pass on their offspr
          • The *results* are not obvious. However the *process* (favoured survival of random mutations via increased reproduction) is very obvious. ID believers deny the existence of the *process*.

            If I drop a handful of marbles on the floor, it'll take some pretty sophisticated maths to calculate in advance where they're going to end up (in fact, IIRC solving the maths for a collision of 3 or more objects simultaneously is not actually possible). But it takes nothing more than stating the bleeding obvious to say "d
            • Rather, I think the question is: Can such complexity arise from a single selection event per organism.
            • Actully, youe just as dumb when you say, "And it'd be pretty dumb to say "they're going to go wherever God tells them to go" " since you are passing judgement on a thing that you cannot define if it were to exist. While there is no proof that God exists, there is no proof God does not exist. There is absolutely nothing wrong in saying that the marbles go where God wants them to go, because if an all powerful God exists, then for all you know God could change the laws of physics at any moment, to alter one c
              • That's a fair point. Proof or otherwise of God's existence isn't possible.

                Rephrase: "Your maths/physics can't solve the problem, therefore this proves that they're going to go wherever God tells them to go." Now *that* would be dumb, and that's the situation we're in...
    • You're free to abandon your evolved body anytime you choose. I generally like mine and plan to hang on to it for a lot longer.

      When it really needs augmentation, there is a wide variety of devices to choose from. My personal favorites are motorcycles, cars, and skis, but there are a lot of others to choose from.
  • by Centurix (249778) <centurix@ g m a i l.com> on Sunday March 19, 2006 @06:00AM (#14951374) Homepage
    At least these muscles won't suffer from Brewers Droop...
  • by Sir Pallas (696783) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @06:02AM (#14951379) Homepage
    Just like all of the robots in the future. I'm sure it's not coincidence.
  • wtf (Score:2, Interesting)

    by 3-State Bit (225583)
    a lifting strength more than 100 times that of normal
    skeletal muscle


    Whoa. okay.

    Fact 1. You know, the human body is so efficient at converting Calorie input into work output that in the world of fitness and nutrition, we practically don't even need to differentiate between Calorie intake and Calorie output! Eating exactly 500 Calories less is almost the same as performing exactly 500 Calories of work! (I think that fairly exact Calorie output testing can be performed in the laboratory, although I don't k
    • Re:wtf (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      100x more powerful than a normal skeletal muscle? Do they mean by mass? The article doesnt say. Otherwise saying that its 100x more powerful than X tells us nothing. The hydraulics on a backhoe are probably like 10000x more powerful than a normal skeletal muscle. Oh wait, maybe not if you're talking dinosaur muscles. Sheesh. What a stupid article.
    • Re:wtf (Score:5, Informative)

      by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Sunday March 19, 2006 @07:08AM (#14951493) Homepage
      I'm hoping you're joking.

      First, the human body is indeed effective, but not anywhere *close* to what you claim. The thing is, when you calculate the calorie-need for a certain activity, you typically do so by looking at a table. Say swim a mile in half an hour requires about X calories.

      But those numbers are *already* calculated (or more likely measured) including the human inefficiencies.

      Ever noticed you get warm and start sweating if you do heavy work ? That's waste heat for you baby.

      If you pedal a bike, and generate 100W, you'll use significantly more than 25cal/s doing so (a calorie is about 4 Joule).

      Second, producing "450 horsepower pro second" is a completely nonsensical statement. Horsepower (or KW) are measures of *power*, A car migth have 100 horsepower, you can measure it over a second, an hour or a year, it'll still have 100 horsepower.

      It's a lot like saying you're 6 feet tall pro second, which makes no sense, unless perhaps you mean you *grow* at 6 feet pro second.

      The article is dumb. 100 times as strong as skeletal muscle is a statement with no meaning unless you specify what exactly you mean;

      • Is it 100 times as strong as a muscle of the same mass ?
      • Is it 100 times as strong as a muschle of the same volume ?
      • Do you mean it has 100 times the force ?
      • Or 100 times the movement ?
      • Or 100 times the power ? (i.e. force times movement)
      • Re:wtf (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Tx (96709)
        The article is dumb. 100 times as strong as skeletal muscle is a statement with no meaning unless you specify what exactly you mean

        I agree with most of your post, but BBC aims their content at Joe Public, it's not a scientific journal. Joe public will read from that that if he replaced his muscles with these artificial muscles, he'd be able to bench-press a lot more than he can now. That's as much as he needs or wants to know, and more importantly, he'll absorb it before his short attention span is exhauste
        • Re:wtf (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Elemenope (905108)
          And it is articles like this, all of them, that assure us of the perpetuity of Joe being dumb. If there was perhaps an incentive for Joe being smarter...but, no, instant gratification is so much more marketable.
        • by IainMH (176964)
          That's as much as he needs or wants to know, and more importantly, he'll absorb it before his short attention span is exhausted and he moves on to the celebrity gossip column.

          I'll happily fall into that category. On a Sunday.
        • by EvanED (569694)
          we can't expect publications aimed at the average Joe to provide the kind of detail we'd like on these stories.

          No, we DON'T expect them to. And thus they don't publish details like that. If people started writing in complaining about the imprecision in scientific articles, they'd improve them.
      • The article is dumb. 100 times as strong as skeletal muscle is a statement with no meaning unless you specify what exactly you mean;
        A couple other issues: what's the response time of the metal muscle type? Heating up and cooling off strips of metal sounds very slow to me.

        Second, does it scale? Maybe one strand of this metal pulls 100x compared to one strand of muscle, but can a big bundle of metal fibers be heated and cooled that way?

      • Re:wtf (Score:2, Informative)

        by cbc1920 (730236)
        I'm assuming that they mean 100 times as much linear force per unit mass. Shape memory alloy (SMA) actuators have been around since the 60's, and they are incredibly powerful. An actuator made from 1mm diameter Nitenol wire can easily lift 10lbs. Their reaction time can be measured in ms if enough heat is applied quickly. So, the claim is not so farfetched.

        Of course, there are several caches to using a SMA actuator: First, its operating temperature range is less than 100C, and usually more like 40C, dependi
        • You could get rid of the return spring if you set up the actuators in opposing pairs, the way many human muscles are.
    • Of course, these new toys sound great. But, what they don't tell you is that they'll break five minutes after you get them home :)
    • The human body is nowhere near 100% efficient. Aerobic respiration is only about 40% efficient, anaerobic respiration a miserable 2%. I'm not sure about digestion. The muscles themselves are 80% efficient, but that's once you've gotten the ATP to them in the first place.

      I'm not sure about the input end, but I'm sure that's much less than 100% as well, unless you're taking in glucose.

      I think in the fitness world, the numbers are already adjusted for this. That is, if an activity is deemed to use some num
    • by Grab (126025)
      I take your point about needing the energy to run these things - you'll be using a large amount of your 100x strength to lug the gas tank around! :-) But your assertion of 100% efficiency on the human body ain't quite right.

      The human body takes a large amount of energy simply to keep running - IIRC it's about 1500 calories a day (for a man) if you simply lay in bed and didn't move a muscle.

      For hard physical work, it doesn't get much tougher than Arctic expeditions or mountain climbing. They're typically u
  • by arakon (97351) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @06:20AM (#14951398) Homepage
    We can rebuild him, make him stronger, faster....

    Col Steve Austin is the "6 Million dollar Man."

    duhduh taduhhh
  • The SF world doesn't begin and end with anime or video games, which are old bad American pre-1930's sci-fi warmed over. And over. And over. And over. And over...

    If ya want to imagine coolness, picture Marvel Comic's Iron Man Armor. Now that's a fun toy. Closely related to Heinlein's Marine armor, which Lee probably never heard of. I used to dream of engineering a full suit of powered armor. (Sadly, it'll probably come into initial use intimidating protestors, as usual. We're kind of short on real enemies, s
    • Like we need Captain America and the Fantastic Four to intimidate protestors when we can just chase them away with personal hygiene products.
    • If riot police aren't worried about the random rock or bottle damaging their fragile head or a random punch hitting them in the chest it is MUCH easier for them to use proportional and appropriate force. If you fear for your safety your fight or flight response will kick in and you will do what you have to to end the threat, however if you are a heavily armored warrior you can use the cerebral part of your brain to make sure that you use apropriate action.
    • This anime matches up with the article perfectly:

      Ghost in the Shell

      A great application for cyborg bodies...
  • by skam240 (789197) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @06:56AM (#14951470)
    one of the problems with lifting weight of this kind is whether or not our skeletons can take it. the bones in your limbs can only support so much weight. it doesnt do you any good to have the strength to lift a car over your head if it will break the bones in your arms in the process.

    it strikes me that some sort of skeletal reinforcement will be needed before this can be used to its fullest extent.
    • by Fred_A (10934) <fred@fredshome.DEGASorg minus painter> on Sunday March 19, 2006 @07:34AM (#14951542) Homepage
      It definitely can't ; some people can already break their bones with their overdevelopped muscles.

      Artificial muscles would definitely require skeletal reinforcement. Although I don't know if anyone has ever worked on this.

      I'm not sure if those synthetic muscle can actually be implanted in a living organism either.
      • So we're ripping out perfectly healthy flesh, slapping a few rivets and i-bars over the bones, and hooking the whole thing up to some sort of alcohol tank. Why not just eschew all the messy surgery and permanent infrastructure needed to keep you rolling, and just put these muscles in an exoskeleton? Mind you, I don't know how effective these are as opposed to pneumatics, in terms of weight you can lift. Modifying any part of the body to give it superhuman strength however will always require a near total b

      • not only that. You will need stronger bones, to use these stronger muscles, but also you will need different type of skin, because if you start using these reinforced bones and these strong muscles in a normal human body, you will most likely hurt yourself every time you do something extreme, you will probably constantly rupture your blood vessels and skin.
      • "Artificial muscles would definitely require skeletal reinforcement."

        Bingo. If they were to be used on a human frame at least.

        The first thing that popped into my mind when I read this was "Sweet! They created Myomer bundles like they have in Battletech!" For any that are curious, here is the Wikipedia entry for Myomer bundles in Battletech [wikipedia.org].

  • by moochfish (822730) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @07:03AM (#14951485)

    Scientists have developed artificial, super-strength muscles which are powered by alcohol and hydrogen.

    This could take bar fights to a whole new level.

  • BioEngineering (Score:3, Interesting)

    by haakondahl (893488) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @07:33AM (#14951539)
    I have for some time wanted to write a story including a "car" powered by a V-8 engine which is organic above the crankshaft. I have done my little engineering studies of nutrient bath and circulatory systems, exhaust issues (I mean this thing shits all over the road) and such... I have so far envisioned genetically tuned muscles, grown in a vat (or what-have-you), but the synthetic muscles are interesting.
    The problem is that I don't have a story there, just a neato idea. Not even characters. That doesn't stop many SF writers, unfortunately.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Shape memory alloys are already available to hobbiest in the form of nitinol wire. One of the problems is the very slow cycle times. The wire I have seen is only capable of about 3 contract/relax cycles per minute under ambient cooling. The main problem seems to be that once the wire is heated up in order for it to contract, it is hard to dissipate the heat out of the wire fast enough, to get the wire back to its original length or shape. Also, compared to just a normal RC servo, the nitinol wire was very
    • The wire I have seen is only capable of about 3 contract/relax cycles per minute under ambient cooling. The main problem seems to be that once the wire is heated up in order for it to contract, it is hard to dissipate the heat out of the wire fast enough, to get the wire back to its original length or shape.

      Have you thought about water cooling?
      wrap a lil' tube around the wire, and pump cold water in it when you want to cool down the thing? I don't know how reactive it would get, but I'm sure you could get b
      • wrap a lil' tube around the wire, and pump cold water in it when you want to cool down the thing?

        Then you'd need a way to cool down the water/coolant, which means at least a fan and radiator, which would further degrade its energy efficiency.

  • Bitch Slap (Score:2, Funny)

    by PC-PHIX (888080) *
    This is a really cool creation and the scientists responsible will slap (100 times harder than you've ever been slapped) anyone who disagrees!
  • Other uses (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ztream (584474) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @09:27AM (#14951678)
    Why is everyone here thinking "body augmentation"? I think this has very interesting implications for robotics and other forms of mechanical engineering; methinks the muscle is a pretty smart invention for certain types of movement and force application.
  • My muscles are augmented.
  • I'll be back
  • What's really significant here is that these will be practical. Forget 100 times strength. Think 2x or 3x at a weight that the human skeleton can manage without requiring reinforcement in earth gravity. Current exoskeleton type enhancement or even prosthetics are limited by the amount of weight and bulk they bring along to the arrangement, we can only handle so much.

    This new tech would allow for very light weight and form fitting systems that could allow for normal range of movement and speed of movement wh
    • Well both of those have their place. There could be lightweight suits to assist in working in a warehouse or moving company, lifting boxes and stuff, a larger one for lifting dumpsters (FULLY replacing those noisy pneumatic garbage truck lifters! =) , and then a full sized one for cargo containers like you see on 18 Wheelers.

      Then there could be suits for athletics, bringing sports into a whole new dimension.

      There could be *silent* airplanes that flap their own wings.

      Sheesh. The invention is huge, dependi
      • You're absolutely correct. I just wanted to point out the importance of not looking at the technology as this extreme application. It could just as easily be used as a very effective micro-motor. The flexibility of something like this which has so much room for performance loss while still being useful.... now that is encouraging.

  • Excellent, now all I need is some cybereyes, a datajack, and some skillsofts and I start start doing runs on the 8+ diamond stores in town.
  • From ClassicBattletech.com [classicbattletech.com]:

    Two different systems are used to drive BattleMechs and control their movements. Small, electrically driven actuators move a 'Mech's light weapons and sensor arrays. Bundles of polyacetylene fibers called myomers control a 'Mech's limbs and main weapons. Myomers contract when exposed to electrical current, much like human muscles.

    Giant frickin' robots! Who's with me?

  • by Greyfox (87712)
    Now throw together some bones, ligaments and skin that can handle that kind of stress and I'll be in for a full body replacement.
  • How about reversing these muscle motors, like we do rotary ones, to make generators? Strapping them across hot parts absorbing the wasted energy from inefficient generation tech to capture more efficiency.

    Really any tech that can very efficiently capture heat and convert it to useable power, whether stored in chemical bonds, transmitted light or electric current will transform (pun intended ;) our power consumption problems. Especially if that tech's product lifecycle itself consumes very little energy comp
  • Bones (Score:3, Insightful)

    by StikyPad (445176) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @06:38PM (#14953709) Homepage
    Now all we need are super-strong synthetic bones to prevent this [weirdpicturearchive.com] sort of thing.
  • The most powerful type, "shorted fuel cell muscles" convert chemical energy into heat, causing a special shape-memory metal alloy to contract.

    Shape-memory alloys or "muscle wire" have been around for decades, and are not particularly useful for large-scale robotic motion due to their immense power requirements, short stroke, slow actuation speed, and difficulty of control. This article is pretty lite on new information, but the only innovation seems to be delivering heat via chemical reactions directly on t
  • So, everyone wants mech warriors and augmentation. Big deal...
    I'd like to be able to walk normally again.
    While my prosthetic is made of groovy materials (carbon-carbon, carbon fibre and titanium), it lacks even the most basic of control. Sure, there is a small amount of feedback as the carbon-carbon 'foot' flexes, but I have no true ankle control.
    I have been waiting for realistic 'active' prosthetics for over ten years now, and hopefully this technology will be available in a relatively reasonable time f
  • Synthetic muscle that runs better when it's hot...

    Damn, looks like the Clans have caputured our Triple-Strength Myomer [wikipedia.org] technlolgy!

    What's next, the C3 Computer?
  • I will be governor of California.

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