The Korean team’s continuously shorted fuel-cell muscle incorporated a shape-memory wire coated with nanoparticles of platinum catalyst. This type of muscle converted the chemical energy of the fuel into thermal energy, which caused actuation. The fuel-cell muscle’s work capability was 100 times that of skeletal muscle They also created a cantilever-based nanotube fuel-cell muscle, the system converted chemical energy (in the form of hydrogen fuel) to electrical energy, which it could then use for movement, other needs or storage.
The artificial muscles could have applications in robotics, freeing up robots from being tethered to heavy battery packs. They could also find a use in prosthetic limbs, smart sensors, dynamic Braille displays, and smart skins for aerospace vehicles. Ultimately it may even be possible to use artificial muscles in the human body, by replacing the metal catalyst with tethered enzymes that can exploit food-derived fuels.