Campus News
Published: 16 November, 2012

Small muscles to have big impact on smart clothing

Australian scientists are among a team to develop a new artificial muscle with exciting possibilities for use in self-powered intelligent textiles that could automatically react to environmental conditions like heat or sweat.

Researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) at the University of Wollongong are part of a team spread across four continents, to develop the new hybrid yarn muscle.

The hybrid yarn muscles are based on carbon nanotubes which are hollow cylinders just one carbon atom thick like the layers of graphite. On their own, carbon nanotubes are about 10,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair but they can be 100 times stronger than steel.

Researchers combine the nanotubes with a wax material like household candles, the result being a single thread of yarn around 10 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair, that can lift over 100,000 times its own weight and generate 85 times higher mechanical output that natural skeletal muscles.

“When heated, either electrically or with a flash of light, the wax in the yarn muscles expands, causing contraction of the nanotube yarn and generating a very large contraction,” according to ACES researcher Professor Geoff Spinks.

Unlike other artificial muscles, the hybrid yarn muscles are fully dry so actuation can be triggered from changes in environmental temperature or the presence of chemical agents, making them perfect for use as self-powered intelligent materials.

Using the advanced customised technology of the Australian National Fabrication Facility that is housed at ACES’ Wollongong NSW node, scientists can move to the next exciting step of weaving, sewing, braiding and knitting the hybrid yarn muscles.

“The yarns could be used to create intelligent fabrics that can open and close the porosity of the fabric to allow heat in or keep it out, or release moisture,” ACES researcher and fabrication expert Dr Javad Foroughi said, who has also just been awarded a three-year fellowship from the Australian Research Council to develop intelligent fabrics.

Other applications for the yarns could include robots, catheters, micro-motors, tuneable optical systems and even toys.

The research is published today (Friday 16 November) in Science.

Published: 16 November, 2012

Contact us

+61 2 4221 4227 | media@uow.edu.au 

Share

UOW IN THE NEWS

Q&A: how the Sydney siege was...
The Conversation | 16 Dec
Now, a bra that 'regulates' itself...
The Times of India | 16 Dec
Hostage taking in Sydney cafe...

Huffington Post | 16 Dec
Sydney hostage-taker a random...

Hong Kong Herald | 16 Dec
Sydney Siege: several injured as...
New Straits Times | 16 Dec
Hostage taking in Sydney cafe...
The Economic Times | 15 Dec
Security forces storm Sydney...
Independent Online | 15 Dec
'Google Hangout meets Second Life'...
Business Review Weekly | 12 Dec
Australian startup holds the largest...
CNBC | 11 Dec
Researchers develop 'bionic bra'
CNN | 11 Dec
'Smart bra': Australian engineers...
Sydney Morning Herald | 11 Dec
'Bionic Bra' Automatically Shape...
Huffington Post | 12 Dec
Cancer Council: fruit and vegeta...
The Age | 11 Dec
Researchers looking to 4-D prin...
Phys.org | 9 Dec
Dawn of the 'BIONIC BRA': Unde...
Daily Mail UK | 9 Dec
Move over Victoria’s Secret, bioni...

New York Post | 8 Dec
More media coverage