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Bionic Humans Using EAP as Artificial Muscles Reality and Challenges

Author(s): Yoseph Bar-Cohen

Journal: International Journal of Advanced Robotic Systems
ISSN 1729-8806

Volume: 1;
Issue: 3;
Date: 2008;
Original page

For many years, the idea of a human with bionic muscles immediately conjures up science fiction images of a TV series superhuman character that was implanted with bionic muscles and portrayed with strength and speed far superior to any normal human. As fantastic as this idea may seem, recent developments in electroactive polymers (EAP) may one day make such bionics possible. Polymers that exhibit large displacement in response to stimulation that is other than electrical signal were known for many years. Initially, EAP received relatively little attention due to their limited actuation capability. However, in the recent years, the view of the EAP materials has changed due to the introduction of effective new materials that significantly surpassed the capability of the widely used piezoelectric polymer, PVDF. As this technology continues to evolve, novel mechanisms that are biologically inspired are expected to emerge. EAP materials can potentially provide actuation with lifelike response and more flexible configurations. While further improvements in performance and robustness are still needed, there already have been several reported successes. In recognition of the need for cooperation in this multidisciplinary field, the author initiated and organized a series of international forums that are leading to a growing number of research and development projects and to great advances in the field. In 1999, he challenged the worldwide science and engineering community of EAP experts to develop a robotic arm that is actuated by artificial muscles to win a wrestling match against a human opponent. In this paper, the field of EAP as artificial muscles will be reviewed covering the state of the art, the challenges and the vision for the progress in future years.
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