Spider Silk Might Be Useful For Building Robotic Muscle

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Spider silk is known as the most durable material in a report with its mass. This property, along with some others, might be useful in building robotic muscles, or actuators, a team of scientists discovered.

Spider silk is very resilient, and it also responds to changes in humidity. When the air humidity rises to a certain level the material contracts and twists, exerting force, a characteristic also found in the other potential materials for building robotic muscle. The so-called robotic actuators (muscle) are devices that would conduct some activity, opening or closing a valve, for instance, in the future robots.

“We found this by accident initially. My colleagues and I wanted to study the influence of humidity on spider silk,” said Dabiao Liu, an associate professor at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China. To achieve that, scientists hooked a weight to the silk to come up with something like a pendulum. They also sealed the chamber but kept control over the humidity inside the room. “When we increased the humidity, the pendulum started to rotate. It was out of our expectation. It really shocked me,” added Liu.

Spider Silk Might Be Useful For Building Robotic Muscle

“This could be very interesting for the robotics community as a novel way of controlling certain kinds of sensors or control devices. It’s very precise in how you can control these motions by controlling the humidity,” also said Markus Buehler, head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT.

However, the researchers found no biological purpose for the twisting force the spider silk presents when humidity increases. They believe it has something to do with the morning dew, though, ensuring that the web resists. But they found out the mechanisms behind this process. Accordingly, it has to do with the folding of a protein building block called proline.

“Spider silk’s unique propensity to undergo supercontraction and exhibit a torsional behavior in response to external triggers such as humidity can be exploited to design responsive silk-based materials that can be precisely tuned at the nanoscale. Potential applications are diverse: from humidity-driven soft robots and sensors [robotic muscle] to smart textiles and green energy generators,” concluded Anna Tarakanova from the University of Connecticut, who also participated in the study.

Vadim Ioan Caraiman

Vadim is a passionate writer on various topics but especially on stuff related to health, technology, and science. Therefore, for Great Lakes Ledger, Vadim will cover health and Sci&Tech news.