A team of scientists led by Ray Baughman from the University of Texas developped aerogel sheets composed of bundles of vertically aligned carbon nanotubes that reproduces the properties of the human muscles with outstanding performances.
With a super low density of 1.5 mg/cm3, almost as light as air, a gram of this material can cover over 30 m2! The material outperforms the human muscle by 700 percent and other carbon nanotubes materials by 10 folds : it can elongate by 220 percent at a rate of 37,000 percent per second. Alongside its astonishing vertical elasticity, it presents a superior horizontal hardness, so this “unprecedented degree of anisotropy is akin to having diamond-like behavior in one direction and rubber-like behavior in the others”.
The material support a broader temperature range than biological materials (25 to 1200 degrees Celsius) but it generates a lower power: 30J/kg against 40J/kg for real muscles. The future applications could include prosthetics, robotics, and even “organic light-emitting displays, solar cells, charge stripping from ion beams, and cold electro field emission”, thanks to its perpendicular light diffraction properties.