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New material could make robot muscles better, faster, stronger

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There's already been countless advances in the always exciting field of robot muscles, but a team of researchers from the University of Texas have now made what appears to be a considerable leap forward, which they say could allow for "performance characteristics that have not previously been obtained." The key to that is an entirely new material comprised of ribbons of tangled nanotubes, which can expand its width by 220% when a voltage is applied and return to its original shape in just milliseconds when the voltage is removed. What's more, the material is not only "stronger than steel and stiffer than diamond," but it's able to withstand an extreme range of temperatures from -196 °C to 1538 °C, which could allow robots equipped with the muscles to operate with ease in a wide variety of off-world colonies, er, "harsh environments." Head on past the break for a demonstration of the material in its non-robot form.

[Image courtesy NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory]

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