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Heated by a small electric current, the material was capable of expanding to nine times its normal size.
In tests it demonstrated enormous strength, having a strain density - the amount of energy stored in each gram of a stretched elastic body - 15 times greater than natural muscle.
The device, described as a "soft actuator", was able to lift 1,000 times its own weight, said the researchers whose work is reported in the journal Nature Communications. Artificial muscles may not only be used in robots but also sensitive surgical devices and a host of other applications where gripping and manipulation is important.
The long-term aim is to accelerate the artificial muscle's response time and link it to an artificially intelligent (AI) control system, said the researchers, who were part-funded by the Israeli defence ministry.
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