My group is developing a roadmap to replace bulky electric motors in miniature robots requiring large mechanical work output.
First, I will describe the mechanics of coiled muscles made by twisting nylon fishing lines, and how these actuators use internal strain energy to achieve a “record breaking” performance. Then I will describe intriguing hierarchical super-, and hyper-coiled artificial muscles which exploit the interplay between nonlinear mechanics and material microstructure. Next, I will describe their use to actuate the dynamic snapping of insect-scale jumping robots. The combination of strong but slow muscles with a fast-snapping beam gives rise to dynamic buckling cascade phenomena leading to effective robotic jumping mechanisms.
These examples shed light on the future of automation propelled by new bioinspired materials, nonlinear mechanics, and unusual manufacturing processes.