‘KNITTED’ MUSCLES COULD HELP THE DISABLED WALK AGAIN
“IT IS OUR DREAM TO CREATE EXOSKELETONS THAT ARE SIMILAR TO ITEMS OF CLOTHING”
Your woolly jumper may soon do more than keep you warm: Swedish researchers have created ‘textile muscles’ that could potentially be stitched into the clothes of injured or disabled people to enable them to move more easily.
“Enormous and impressive advances have been made in the development of exoskeletons, which now enable people with disabilities to walk again. But the existing technology looks like rigid robotic suits,” said researcher Edwin Jager. “It is our dream to create exoskeletons that are similar to items of clothing, such as running tights that you can wear under your normal clothes. Such a device could make it easier for older persons and those with impaired mobility to walk.”
The material is made by coating regular fabric with a fluid capable of conducting electricity. When a low voltage is applied to the fabric, the fibres from which it is made increase in length. By carefully controlling the knitted structure of the fabric, the researchers are able to create what they call “knitted muscles”.
“If we weave the fabric, for example, we can design it to produce a high force. In this case, the extension of the fabric is the same as that of the individual threads,” said researcher Nils-Krister Persson. “But what happens is that the force developed is much higher when the threads are connected in parallel in the weave. This is the same as in our muscles.”
So far, the textile muscles have only been used in a simple robot device to lift a small weight. The next step is to integrate them into items of clothing, the researchers say.
Artificial muscles made of woven fabric could be sewn into clothes to help disabled people get about more easily