IIT Kanpur builds bio-inspired Artificial muscle

Artificial muscle is used to boost Next-Gen Space Robotics and Medical Prostheses

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IIT Kanpur’s bio-inspired shape memory alloy-based artificial muscle. Photo: IIT Kanpur
IIT Kanpur’s bio-inspired shape memory alloy-based artificial muscle. Photo: IIT Kanpur

IIT Kanpur’s bio-inspired artificial muscle has a huge potential to augment the Indian Space Technology and biomedical industry. SMA actuators, used in this development, are also now preferred more by many industries than conventional actuators.

The Smart Materials, Structures, and Systems Lab at IIT Kanpur has developed a bio-inspired artificial muscle that will significantly advance the biomedical, food, and space technology industries with the help of CSR financing.

The team has used Shape Memory Alloy actuators as an alternative to gear-based traditional actuators. From food to chemical industries, SMA actuator-powered machines are sought more as it is found to be more productive.

Abhishek Kumar Singh, a senior project mechanic, Kanhaiya Lal Chaurasiya, a senior project engineer, Yashaswi Sinha, and A Sri Harsha, a project engineer, make up the mechanical engineering department’s SMSS team. 

It is under Bishakh Bhattacharya, a professor in the mechanical engineering department.

IIT Kanpur’s artificial muscle is made of an SMA actuator

The bio-inspired artificial muscle is made of an SMA actuator, designed specifically for building this. Actuators are mechanical systems that run by motors and produce kinetic energy in rotary or linear motion with electrical input.

SMA actuators have an advantage over these conventional actuators because, true to their name, they can go back to their actual shape when heated at high temperatures. This characteristic can be attributed to the Shape Memory Effect and Superelastic Effect that the smart material possesses.

The limitation and innovation of this artificial muscle

SMA actuators are flexible and have a high force-to-weight ratio and small volume, but they also have limitations like low maximum frequency and output efficiency. By utilizing the traits of bi-pennate muscle architecture, the team has improved the SMA actuator, resulting in a 70% increase in muscle force output per unit weight.

As a result, it is anticipated that a novel category of space robots will emerge. The nation’s biomechatronics researchers can create adaptive robotic prostheses for biomedical purposes in addition to advancements in space technology.

The director of IIT Kanpur, Professor Abhay Karandikar, assured that the IIT Kanpur research team has invented a specific bio-inspired artificial muscle with SMA that has good prospects in encouraging new and better changes in making space robots and biomedical systems.

Scientific development in various fields

This development by IIT Kanpur can impact the biomedical field in producing high-performance biomedical devices like CT and MRI scanners cost-effectively. This is bound to make medical services more affordable.

Professor Abhay Karandikar added that apart from advancement in building better next-generation space robots and medical prostheses, this bio-inspired artificial muscle will also benefit aviation and other industries.

With industries developing and desiring high productivity in less time, this bio-inspired artificial muscle can positively impact many fields that desire high torque, higher pull force, lightweight and better adaptability.

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