MIT has developed a new material that could serve as nylon muscles for robots and other machines. The nylon muscles are able to contract and expand in the same way that organic muscle fibers do.
The key to developing the nylon muscles was in the precise formulation of the material itself. When exposed to heat, the special fibers expand in diameter but shrink in length, which is the same behavior as human muscle fibers. By applying heat in more complex and precise configurations, the MIT researchers were even able to make the nylon muscles move in patterns like circles and figure eights.
Though this material isn't the first artificial muscle, its benefit is that it is a significantly lower cost option when compared to other materials and systems.