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Flexible Synthetic Muscle Polymer Passes Space Station Tests
QUINCY, Mass.–Ras Labs, LLC, recently reported that its Synthetic MuscleTM polymer passed all tests undertaken on the International Space Station to demonstrate its durability to survive high doses of radiation that would be fatal to humans.
RAS Labs LLC develops contractile electroactive polymers (EAPs), and the recent tests took a year to perform in space on the International Space Station. A collaboration between Ras Labs, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) conducted experiments designed to examine the effect of rigors and extreme conditions in space on Ras Labs electroactive polymers. Early results demonstrate that the polymers passed all tests, making it a viable material for space applications.
"The results confirm what we had believed to be the case all along. Our Synthetic Muscle polymers can withstand extreme conditions in space, verifying its application for extreme environments," stated Eric Sandberg, Ras Labs’ CEO, in a company release. "The global robotics market represents over $25 billion in sales per year. Our smart materials have significant advantages over existing mechanical approaches, and we expect high market suitability in commercial solutions based on these inherent advantages."
Ras Labs’ electroactive polymer actuators have the potential to offer life-like motion and control for robotics, bionics, and rehabilitative prosthetics. As a result, roboticists are looking at Ras Labs’ Synthetic Muscle to provide motion and control, replacing the need for belts, pulleys, gears, or motors. The aeronautics industry and NASA are also looking at these new materials, which reportedly can provide robotic actuation with potentially better control and dexterity versus metal mechanical approaches, without cumbersome weight additions.
Ras Labs’ Synthetic Muscle material is made of robust electroactive polymers that can expand and contract with reversed polarity in response to electric input. Selected materials are reported to withstand extreme temperatures of minus 271 degrees Celsius to over 135 degrees Celsius, and have proven radiation resistance on Earth through testing at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) at Princeton University, and now on the ISS.
"The potential for our polymers in space is significant," added Sandberg. "We also believe that, due to the polymers’ potential to offer a high degree of dexterity, we have a sizeable number of additional market opportunities. To date, we have attracted attention from leading companies in prosthetics and orthotics, chemical manufacturing, athletic gear, robotics, electronic components, and sensors. The company has aligned resources in product design and testing as an effort to scale and run multiple product development paths in parallel."
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