A team of government scientists has created a microchip-sized robotic muscle capable of throwing objects 50 times heavier than itself a distance five times longer than its length in less than 60 milliseconds. The key to this wonder device is a material called vanadium dioxide, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory explains in a news release spotted by Raw Story. Researchers twisted a ribbon of the material into a coil that functions much like a torsional muscle. When heated, it becomes either a "micro-catapult" or a proximity sensor that can set off a "micro-explosion."
These two functions, when combined, simulate "living bodies where neurons sense and deliver stimuli to the muscles and the muscles provide motion," the project's leader explains. "Multiple micro-muscles can be assembled into a micro-robotic system that simulates an active neuromuscular system." Eventually, that could lead to powerful (dare we say super-powerful?) prosthetics or surgical devices. (Read more microchips stories.)