In the future, we may need a whole new definition for the muscle shirt.
Researchers in Sweden have developed an electroactive "textile muscle" system that turns apparel fabrics into external, artificial musculature. The technology could power a new kind of soft exoskeleton solution for laborers, people with disabilities or anyone who needs a little extra when pulling and lifting.
It works like this: Lightweight apparel fabric is coated with an electroactive material in a process similar to dyeing. After the material dries, any low voltage current applied to the fabric - by way of a wearable battery, say - changes the shape of the fabric and produces force in a designated direction or configuration. As the individual threads change volume, the particular pattern or weave in the fabric amplifies and directs movement.
It's essentially the same kind of mechanical action that powers our own muscles, according to the researchers at Linköping University and the University of Borås in Sweden. Similar soft exosuit systems have been developed, but the Swedish technology is designed to be used with mass-producible fabrics, the typical cotton or synthetic materials used to make clothing worldwide.
"We envision these actuators to be integrated in items of clothing," co-author Edwin Jager told Seeker.