‘KNIT­TED’ MUS­CLES COULD HELP THE DIS­ABLED WALK AGAIN

Focus-Science and Technology - - Discoveries -

“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

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