Researchers create Self-Healing Artificial Muscles, that are Highly Elastic, and conducts Electricity

Researchers from the University of California, Riverside and University of Colorado have created a  material which they claim to possess dual properties. The material acts as an ionic conductor and at the same time possess the ability to heal itself.

Researchers create Self-Healing Artificial Muscles, that are Highly Elastic, and conducts Electricity

The substance they produced is a unique one and it is low-cost, transparent, and highly elastic. It has tremendous elasticity and is able to withstand even after being stretched more than 50 times its length. Researchers observed that even if it is cut it repaired itself completely within 24 hours at room temperature. When the cut ends are placed side by side they are able to join within 5 minutes that brings the comparisons of material to superhuman regenerative powers of the X-Men’s Wolverine.

Even though many self-healing materials has been reported earlier, what makes this substance special is its ability to conduct electricity through the flow of ions. Generally,  Materials possessing high elastic properties weaken the integrity of bonds but this is an exception.

Researchers exploited the ion-dipole forces to synthesize the material. Ion dipole force is an intermolecular(between molecules) attraction between an ion and a polar molecule.  A polar molecule has a partial positive charge in one part of the molecule and complementary negative charge in another part.

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In this case, elastic polymer acts as a polar molecule which they combined with strong ionic salt and are successful in creating a material that does not degrade when exposed to electricity. They further tested whether the material can act as an artificial muscle. 

What are artificial muscles?

Artificial muscles are the materials that respond to external electrical, physical, or thermal stimuli by expansion, contraction, or rotation. The artificial muscle is made of two layers of synthesized material and nonconductive material in between the layers. 

They researchers sent  electrical stimuli as a signal to the muslcles to which they responded.  Thereafter, the researchers  cut the material in to two parts and observed that the material itself joined with out any help and also did not lost the function. The team hopes this new material may be used to improve electronic devices,  robots and batteries. For example, Robots may be able to heal themselves after an electrical failure , and the material also extends the lifespan of lithium ion batteries used in electronic and electric cars.

The research was  published in the journal Advanced materials.


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