Grasp on future thinking

Written by: Tom Shelley | Published:

Electrically driven actuators are showing extraordinary flexibility – and are fast off the mark too.

Octopus-like actuators are now using electrostatics to achieve great speed and flexibility.

And, while unlikely to come close to what the deep-sea creatures can achieve, they’ve led to the invention of a new kind of muscle-like actuator.

Dr Cecilia Laschi, associate professor in biomedical engineering at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Pisa, Italy, has been explaining how the actuators came about and the principles behind how they might work. Addressing the recent conference on Biological Approaches for Engineering, organised by the Institute of Sound and Vibration at the University of Southampton, she described how octopus arms are composed of special muscular structures, named hydrostats, whose volumes are constant during contraction. Hence, if they are decreased by muscle contraction, their lengths increase and vice versa.

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