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Scientists Create Artificial Muscles from Onions and Gold

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posted on May, 9 2015 @ 01:21 PM

Onion artificial muscles can either expand or contract to bend in different directions depending on the driving voltage applied, says a group of scientists led by Dr Wen-Pin Shih of National Taiwan University.


The onion epidermis is the fragile skin found just beneath the onions surface. It is a thin, translucent layer of cells arranged in a tight lattice.

After an acid bath, the skin becomes elastic and could simultaneously stretch and bend when an electric field is applied. No artificial muscle prior to this was able to do both at the same time.

The acid bath is necessary to remove the hemicellulose, which is a protein that makes the cell walls rigid of the onion. After most of it is removed, they then apply varying thickness of gold, exactly 24nm on top and 50nm to the bottom. The different thickness allows them to generate different bending stiffness for each side.

The asymmetry gave the scientists control over the muscle’s response: a low voltage made them expand and flex downwards, towards the thicker bottom layer. A high voltage, on the other hand, caused the cells to contract and flex upwards, towards the thinner top layer.

These will eventually replace the clunky mechanical actuators currently being used to simulate muscle movements. Make no mistake, this is an interesting development towards our uncanny race to produce artificial intelligence.

To demonstrate their device’s utility, Dr Shih and co-authors combined two onion muscles into a pair of tweezers, which they used to pick up a cotton ball.

This video below is a little underwhelming, but proof of concept. I thought it was a bit creepy to watch to think I may be shaking it's hand in the future.

I can see DARPA and Boston Dynamics trying to incorporate this into their designs. Can you imagine the possibilities? A robot who's body is composed of pure muscle?

Putting AI into a bio-mechanical entity will either produce the next golden age of human advancement or a means to extinction. I don’t like to think in extremes very often, but I’m afraid those funding these ideas don’t have our best interest in mind. My question is, where do you see this going?

edit on 9-5-2015 by eisegesis because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 9 2015 @ 01:51 PM
That's freaking awesome!!

posted on May, 9 2015 @ 01:53 PM
"Man that guy is strong....but he smells weird"

posted on May, 9 2015 @ 02:08 PM
Bionic onion-bot makes soldiers cry

This tech has many possibility's with what we have now, imagine what we might be able to do once we get used to the idea!!!

posted on May, 9 2015 @ 03:06 PM
a reply to: eisegesis

Putting A.I. aside, I'm excited that we can use this to make artificial limbs that are more natural and have better movement. Pair this with the newest research in artificial skin, then this would be very promising.

Smarter Artificial Skin for Prosthetic Hands

posted on May, 9 2015 @ 03:23 PM
a reply to: eisegesis


Battletech want to be Mechwarriors are rejoicing today!


posted on May, 9 2015 @ 08:21 PM
Having a different type of framework for a biological process is cool....but harvesting that many of those slimey little suckers is kind of crazy to take on.

And without it being self repairing, it would be hair raising to risk damage by using it in anything other than the mostcontrolled ways. it is a step in the direction of automatons....but still a long way off.

posted on May, 9 2015 @ 10:15 PM

posted on May, 10 2015 @ 05:13 AM
Those thin onion layers are interesting, they were my first foray into cell biology and microscopy. Even when chopping onions, I marvel at their properties. They do have limitations in application, such as size, but as this research shows, a great model for future cell biology, prosthetics, AI etc, and gold, yet another marvel with many qualities and potential applications.

new topics


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