The Erling-Persson Family Foundation recently announced new funding for research in soft exoskeletons, or textile muscles, at Linköpings University. The research team is receiving 10 million kronor to continue their work. Edwin Jager, Senior Lecturer and Head of the Division Sensor and Actuator Systems is leading the research in collaboration with Nils-Krister Persson, Senior Lecturer at the University of Borås.
- Our expertise’s really complement each other, mine is in electroactive polymers and Nils-Kristers is in advanced textile technology, says Edwin Jager.
The research area of textile muscles is relatively new. In 2017 the research group at LiU proved that the concept worked. By applying electroactive polymers to yarns thread and woven and knitted fabrics, they achieved movement. The textiles contracted and extended.
- Right now, we want to further enhance the performance of the textile muscles. Through solid material research we have enhanced the strain in the yarns ten fold and the contraction force 16-fold, since 2017. We will now work on the speed at which the textile muscles actuate, says Edwin Jager.
The collaboration between Edwin Jager and Nils-Krister Persson began at a lecture in smart textiles. Edwin Jager was searching for a solution on how to connect his very thin samples in parallel. During the lecture he realized that weaving does just that.
- It is incredibly exciting to mix textile technology and electroactive polymers. We are combining ancient weaving and knitting techniques with cutting edge polymer research, says Nils-Krister Persson.
What the future holds for the field of soft exoskeletons is too early to tell but there is no lack of inspiration and ideas.
- We now want to scale up the manufacturing process so that we can get muscle yarns on a bobbin. Then we can knit and weave the yarn into regular clothing. We have really picked up the pace, and now we can keep the momentum going, says Edwin Jager.