The robotics world just got a new kind of artificial muscle to flex, crafted from an unexpected material: onion skin. Today in Applied Physics Letters, researchers from National Taiwan University unveiled a new artificial muscle design, made by layering gold on top of the skin of an onion. It's a new tactic in the search for a working artificial muscle, a search that could have important implications for robotics and healthcare in the years to come.
Because of the onion's unique cell structure, the new artificial muscle is able to remain soft and bendable while it's contracting, a trick that has eluded previous artificial muscle design. The researchers had been attempting to make a similar structure out of polymers when they realized the onion provided a cheaper natural alternative. "Like human muscles, it can bend and contract simultaneously," said Wen-Pin Shih, a mechanical engineer who worked on the project. "That's something previous models couldn't do."