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EU Project to Develop Artificial Muscles with Carbon Nanotubes

02 September 2005

A European project has been formed, entitled Nanomed, to develop a carbon nanotube actuator for use in medical technology.

Nanocyl, one of the world’s main producers of nanotubes, is one of such partners involved in the project which consists of other key industry and university partners in this European research project.

Already now some gaps in the market are evident as can be shown with the example of leg amputations: In Europe, annually approximately 47 000 leg amputations are carried out. However, only approximately 50% of the patients can be supplied with a prosthetic leg, as most of the patients are too weak to attach the prostheses and use them appropriately.

In the future, actuators could provide a solution to these kinds of problems. Actuators cause something to move and they have already become an integral part of robotics and automation. Logically, actuators might also be used as prostheses. Currently, the possibilities to do so are still very restricted as the energy required for actuators is quite high. Also, the effectiveness of the actuators is not that great and the weight of the actuators is another problem.

The use of new materials might prove to hold the answer to some or all of these problems: carbon nanotubes (CNT), very small tubes made from carbon which are approximately 10 000 times thinner than human hair. The actuators made from carbon nanotubes are said to have exactly the characteristics which are required for a prosthesis: they require very little energy, have a high system effectiveness and are light-weight. All these characteristics turn these actuators into candidates for the development of innovative prostheses which can be regarded as artificial muscles.

A European consortium under the leadership of the British Healthcare Trading Association (BHTA) has set itself the goal of developing artificial muscles on the basis of carbon nanotubes. In total, 13 partners from six European countries are part of the consortium. Nanocyl is one of the key industry partners – with Neue Materialen Würzburg (Germany) and Ortopedijo technika (Estonia) – in this consortium.

Francis Massin, Managing Director of Nanocyl adds: “The future introduction of CNT actuators for a large variety of possible medical applications, will lead to dramatic changes in the healthcare system: new prostheses will reduce healthcare costs by reduced need of medical care of healthier amputees and reduced community nursing costs by more mobile and independent patients. The CNT actuator is a crucial positive change in the healthcare system, Nanocyl is proud to participate in such a revolutionary project.”

Nanomed runs to February 2008.





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