Electro-active polymers make artificial muscles

If you weren’t in California last week, you missed an exciting lecture on the use of electroactive polymers. Not to worry, now you can watch it on the Web.

For many, the idea of a human with bionic muscles immediately conjures up images of science fiction – a superhuman character in a TV series. With bionic muscles, the hero is portrayed with strength and speed far superior to any normal human.

As fantastic as that idea may seem, recent developments in electro-active polymers (EAP) may one day make such bionics possible.

Meanwhile, as this technology evolves, novel mechanisms that are biologically inspired are expected to emerge. EAP materials can potentially provide actuation with lifelike response and more flexible configurations.

And while further improvements in power and robustness will be necessary, there have been already several reported successes.

Last Thursday and Friday at the von Kármán Auditorium at JPL in Pasadena and at the Volsloh Forum at Pasadena City College, CA, Senior JPL Research Scientist Dr. Yoseph Bar-Cohen provided an overview of current developments in this exciting field, and discussed future possibilities for EAP technology.

To watch the lecture, go to http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/events/lectures/feb02.html. You must have Realplayer 8 Basic installed on your machine to watch the movie, but even if you don’t you can download it free from the JPL site.