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Conference Showcases Latest in Artificial-Muscle Research
Conference Showcases Latest in Artificial-Muscle Research

During a demonstration at the SPIE 2009 conference, a team from the University of Pisa, Italy showed off how they used folded film to create an actuator muscle (image to the left).

Engineers from JPL and from around the world are exploring this new field to invent "smart" devices that can grab and move objects and even generate electricity. Researchers also presented papers on how artificial muscles can be used in the near future, such as in a portable, low-cost PDA or MP3 player in Braille, in an automated implantable drug-delivery device, and in a robotic yet realistic jellyfish that could be used to take underwater photos and perform military reconnaissance.

Artificial muscles brought robotics to life at the 11th annual Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices conference in San Diego on Monday, March 9. The event showcased the latest research and demonstrations on electroactive polymers – lightweight plastic strips that bend or stretch when connected to electricity.

Yoseph Bar-Cohen, a senior research scientist who leads JPL's Advanced Technologies Group and its Nondestructive Evaluation and Advance Actuators Lab, chaired the conference. The event was part of the 16th annual SPIE Smart Structures and Materials & Nondestructive Evaluation & Health Monitoring international symposium. The symposium combines the latest research and applications of adaptive structures, smart sensors and non-destructive evaluation. It is sponsored by SPIE, an international society advancing an interdisciplinary approach to the science and application of light.

Conference Images

conference chairs
The SPIE’s EAPAD Conference Chair, Yoseph Bar-Cohen, JPL, and the two co-Chairs of the Biomimetic Session, Gabor Kovacs of EMPA, and Iain Anderson of The Auckland Bioengineering Institute's Biomimetics Lab.

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ionic contractile material
A close-up of the ionic contractile EAP material that Lenore Rasmussen, Ras Labs, LLC, presented. The red dot in the middle of the dish is the contracted EAP where a red dye was added to enhance the visibility of this gel material. Lenore is holding one electrode while the other is the black strip on the right of her hand.

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A photograph of Dielectric Elastomer Electroactive Polymer Actuator strips that were developed by Danfoss PolyPower. Each of the 4 weights on the lifter is 2,5 kg, in total the lifter is working with 10 kg.

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conference attendees
A photographs of the presenters of demos in the EAP-in-Action session, where from the right: Lenore Rasmussen, Ras Labs, LLC; Federico Carpi, University of Pisa, Italy; Iain Anderson (Scientist), Emilio Calius (Scientist), Scott Walbran (PhD student) and Todd Gisby (PhD student), Tom MacKay (PhD student) and Ben O'Brien (PhD student), Auckland Bioengineering Institute's Biomimetics Lab, New Zealand; Gabor Kovacs and Lukas Düring, EMPA, Switzerland; and Hans-Erik Kiil and Michael Tryson, Danfoss PolyPower, Denmark.

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Yoseph Bar-Cohen - JPL Advanced Technologies Group
E-Mail -
Phone - 818.354.2610

Rhea Borja - Media Contact
E-Mail -
Phone - 818.354.0850


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