Twisted carbon nanotube yarns have been shown to develop useful torsional and tensile actuation. Particularly useful are those hybrid yarns that incorporate a volume-changing guest material into the yarn pore space. Changing guest volume causes concomitant untwisting and shortening of the twisted yarn. Intriguingly, the magnitude of the tensile actuation can be increased by an order of magnitude by inserting such high twist into the fiber as to cause coiling. The mechanism of coil-induced stroke enhancement is investigated using ordinary spring mechanics and it is shown that tensile actuation can be adequately predicted from the coil and yarn geometries.
High-performance artificial muscles have been produced from fibers having highly anisotropic thermal expansion. Inserting twist into these precursor fibers enables thermally-driven torsional actuation and can cause the formation of helical coils. Such coiled structures provide giant-stroke tensile actuation exceeding the 20% in-vivo contraction of natural muscles. This contraction is highly reversible, with over one million cycles demonstrated, and can occur without the hysteresis that plagues competing shape-memory and piezoelectric muscles. Several materials and composites are investigated, including low-cost, commercially-available muscle precursors, potentially facilitating thermally-responsive textiles that change porosity to provide wearer comfort.