Synthetic Muscle is Out of This World

By Rebecca Mayer Knutsen

A former runner, Lenore Rasmussen was a spectator on Boston’s Boylston Street on April 15, 2013. Minutes before the bombs exploded, a bored child requesting a visit to the aquarium peeled her away from Marathon Monday. She still chokes up thinking about what could have been.

As founder and chief technology officer of Ras Labs in Quincy, Rasmussen has developed a material that she hopes will one day change the lives of those who lost limbs that day.

“I want to get people dancing again,” Rasmussen says. Synthetic Muscle™, a temperature-resistant electroactive polymer, can expand and contract to simulate muscle movement. With funding from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Pediatric Medical Device Consortium, Ras Labs is using the shape-morphing material to make a self-adjusting and comfortable prosthetic liner. “If the interface between the device and the human is uncomfortable, then it fails,” she explains. “Our material fills voids by changing its shape to match a human.”

Rasmussen wants amputees to live an active lifestyle without thinking about prosthetic liners. The team aims to have a showable prototype available in late 2015. Other uses for the highly adaptable, pressure-resistant material include a long-term plan to develop hand prosthetics that behave, feel and appear human. In the meantime, scientists are exploring the electrically activated polymer’s ability to mimic human-like motion in environments humans cannot withstand, such as space. If the material proves resistant to space’s high levels of radiation, Ras Labs may be able to add robotic development to its list of potential uses for Synthetic Muscle. To learn more, CLICK HERE.

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