October 2017

NSF gives $500K for synthetic muscle work

The National Science Foundation (NSF) in September awarded a University of Houston (UH) engineer $500,000 to develop artificial muscle and tendons for prostheses.

Zheng Chen, PhD, the Bill D. Cook Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Bio-inspired Robotics and Controls Lab at the UH Cullen College of Engineering, won an NSF Career award, granted to promising junior faculty, for his work on prostheses with dielectric elastomers. These smart materials have built-in actuation and sensing capabilities that let them mimic human muscles more closely than motorized metallic parts.

Chen and his colleagues have developed an artificial muscle and tendon prototype, and plan to use nanotechnology to refine the material’s performance.

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