Hulking Up

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research is supporting research at the University of Texas at Dallas into artificial muscle made from carbon nanotubes. Such muscle, which is considered to be 30 times stronger than natural muscle, could one day be used in exoskeletons that give soldiers super-human strength, in smart skins that allow aircraft to quickly change shape to avoid danger, and in space applications, says Dr. Ray Baughman, director of the UTD’s NanoTech Institute. The faux muscle is made of thin sheets of nanotubes that are 1/10,000th of the diameter of a human hair. These sheets are actually lighter than air, rising in the air like smoke, says Baughman. The artificial muscle can operate at extreme temperatures, which makes it especially attractive for use in space. (AFOSR report by Maria Callier)