U.S. Army strengthens future tech with muscle-bound robots

packed with muscle tissue can produce never-seen-before agility and
versatility, Army researchers said.

Researchers with the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development
Command, now known as DEVCOM, Army Research Laboratory are teaming
with collaborators at Duke
 and the University of North
 on high-risk studies in biohybrid robotics.

“Though impressive in their own right, today’s
robots are deployed to serve a limited purpose then are retrieved
some minutes later,” said Dr.
Dean Culver
, a research scientist at the laboratory. “ARL
wants robots to be versatile teammates capable of going anywhere
Soldiers can and more, adapting to the needs of any given


Biohybrid robotics integrates living organisms to mechanical
systems to improve performance.

“Organisms outperform engineered robots in so many
ways. Why not use biological components to achieve those remarkable
capabilities?” Culver asked rhetorically. The team’s proposal
involves the behavior of the proteins that drive muscle
performance, he said.


Robotic systems packed with muscle tissue produce
never-seen-before agility and versatility, Army researchers.

The first applications for biohybrid robotics the team expects
to focus on are legged platforms similar to the Army’s Legged
Locomotion and Movement Adaptation research platform, known as
LLAMA, and the U.S. Marine Corps’ Legged Squad Support System, or
LS3. Dean and his collaborators are also considering flapping-wing

“One obstacle that faces ground-based robots today is
an inability to instantly adjust or adapt to unstable terrain,”
Culver said. “Muscle actuation, though certainly not solely
responsible for it, is a big contributor to animals’ ability to
navigate uneven and unreliable terrain. Similarly, flapping wings
and flying organisms’ ability to reconfigure their envelope gives
them the ability to dart here and there even among branches. In
multi-domain operations, this kind of agility and versatility means
otherwise inaccessible areas are now viable, and those options can
be critical to the U.S. military’s success.”

The team includes faculty collaborators from Duke University,
who will direct computational research, and the University of North
Carolina, who will manage experiments validating the predictions
from the computational efforts. Army researchers will work on the
theoretical mesomechanics that can be tested with the data
collected from both the computational and experimental efforts.

Their work will be supplemented by a separate Duke University
team working on macroscopic performance characteristics of muscle,
tendon, and ligaments in jumping creatures for use in legged

“Muscle tissue is outstanding at producing a specific
amount of mechanical power at a given moment, and its versatility
is unrivaled in robotic actuation today,” he said.

Their research is expected to inform the biohybrid engineering
community on how to culture strong muscle tissue rather than
extract it from a trained organism, he said. In addition, he said
researchers expect the research to offer insight into the
mesomechanics that govern motor protein motion; the kind of motion
responsible for muscle contraction overall.

Originally published by
U.S. Army DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory Public AffairsDecember
17, 2020
U.S. Army Media


Original article