Researchers at UC Berkeley have created a micro-sized robotic muscle using vanadium dioxide that’s 1,000 times more powerful than a human muscle. When heated to 67 degrees Celsius, vanadium oxide rapidly changes from an insulator to a conductor, and researchers have harnessed the resulting contraction to mimic how human muscles work. The artificial muscle can throw objects more than 50 times heavier than itself over a distance five times its own length in a period of just 60 milliseconds.
The vanadium oxide micro-muscle can be heated with a small heating pad, light, or an electrical current, though researchers say electrical current is the most efficient method because it heats and cools much faster, and allows for the selective heating of individual micro-muscles. Berkeley physicist and co-author of the study Junqiao Wu says “multiple micro-muscles can be assembled into a micro-robotic system that simulates an active neuromuscular system,” which could mean that the incredibly powerful Nano Suits from the video game Crysis could one day be a reality.