A research team from the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Faculty of Engineering has created efficient artificial, or “robotic” muscles, which, they say can carry an object 80 times its own weight, and be able to extend to five times its original length when carrying the load—a first in robotics. The team’s invention could pave the way for constructing life-like robots with superhuman strength and ability.

In addition, these novel artificial muscles could potentially convert and store energy, which could help the robots power themselves after a short period of charging.

The team explained how they were able to design and create their novel superhuman muscles, saying, “Our materials mimic those of the human muscle, responding quickly to electrical impulses, instead of slowly for mechanisms driven by hydraulics. Robots move in a jerky manner because of this mechanism. Now, imagine artificial muscles, which are pliable, extendable, and react in a fraction of a second like those of a human. Robots equipped with such muscles will be able to function in a more human-like manner, and outperform humans in strength.”

In order to achieve this, the team used polymers that could be stretched over 10 times their original length.

They said that their novel muscles are not just strong and responsive. Their movements produce a by-product, which is energy. As the muscles contract and expand, they are capable of converting mechanical energy into electrical energy, which is capable of packing a large amount of energy in a small package.