Muscles integrated by the Japanese engineer in robots
Researchers in Tokyo have integrated living muscles tissue in robots. The ‘biohybrid’ design developed just mimics the movement of human finger, as described in journal Science Robotics.
The video shows the bends at the joint, picks up a loop and placed back. The simple movement but more advanced as seemingly more lifelike robots.
A mechanical engineer at University of Tokyo said, if we become capable to insert more of these muscles in a single device, we would easily produce the complex muscular interplay to mimic movements of hands, arms and other body parts.
This preliminary step though, but this will help to approach towards construction of complex biohybrid system.
Why the living muscles?
Research group began the use of them because plastic and metals provides limited range of movement and flexibility. The robotic muscles have been grown in the laboratory by the use of layers of hydrogel sheets fitted with myoblasts (rat muscles cells).
The grown muscles are allowed to contract by stimulation of electric current.
Takeuchi says as they use living muscles so these robots are only capable to survive and function in water. In his previous work Takeuchi encounter the functional problem with the living tissues in robots. This time he used the antagonistic pair of muscles parallel to each other just like in human body- the bicep and tricep in forearm. These bicep and triceps work in antagonistic manner as one expands and other contract.
These antagonistic pair increase life of muscle and can be use for longer amount of time. In this specific case the tissues lasted for over one week.
These antagonistic pairs not only add longevity but also allow 90° range of movement of system. These muscles-driven robots would help in future to construct prosthetics.
The human-like muscle system would also help to test drug and toxins and one day surely will reduce the need of animal testing.
However, still the obstacles stand in the way. Researchers are looking the best possible lubricants to prevent joint friction.
Electric stimulation also produces bubbles in surrounding water which degrade tissues. Researchers are genetically modifying tissues to address these issues and to make the robots more lifelike. Techmasair