Fuel-Powered Artificial Muscles


These inventions are new, highly-efficient actuators which can function as artificial muscles. They are 100 times stronger than natural muscles, able to do 100 times greater work per cycle, and produce larger contractions than natural muscles. Developed using nanotechnology, these actuators are powered through two methods that convert the chemical energy of high-energy-density fuels (hydrogen, methanol, or formic acid) to mechanical, electrical, and thermal energy.


The first artificial muscle type employs a catalyst-containing carbon nanotube electrode that simultaneously functions as an actuator, a fuel-cell electrode, and a super-capacitor electrode. The result is an actuator that converts chemical energy in a fuel to electrical energy which is both stored within and simultaneously used to drive the actuator. Because the actuator efficiently stores the electrical energy byproduct as a capacitor, this artificial muscle can serve as part of a highly efficient autonomous system.


The second artificial muscle type employs a shape memory wire that converts chemical energy in a fuel to thermal energy which contracts the wire and thus produces mechanical actuation. This “continuously shorted fuel cell” wire is coated with platinum catalyst particles and uses hydrogen, methanol, or formic acid as fuel. Contact between the fuel and an oxidant (oxygen or air) causes the wire to heat and contract, and interruption of the fuel causes the wire to cool and relax to its original length.



While traditional electronic robots and artificial limbs have become increasingly sophisticated and athletic, they employ purely electrical actuators which are wired to and thus anchored to large stationary power supplies. Though batteries can be used for these applications, they store too little energy and deliver it at too low a rate for prolonged, intense, and autonomous activity. Therefore there is increased necessity for alternative, more energy efficient, actuators which will be the essential for the future of prosthetics and autonomous robots.



  • Stronger: 100 times stronger than natural muscles
  • Efficient: 100 times greater work per cycle
  • Autonomous: Produces electrical energy as a byproduct to power other electrically dependent portions of the system. Eliminates the need to be anchored to a power supply and operates without battery power.


IP Status:

United States Patent 8,096,119, Issued on January 17th, 2012 titled, “Fuel-powered actuators and methods of using same”



Ray H. Baughman  

Von Howard Ebron

Zhiwei Yang

Daniel J. Seyer

Mikhail Kozlov

Jiyoung Oh

Xie Hui

Joselito Razal Ferraris

John P. Ferraris

Alan G. MacDiarmid

William Alexander Macaulay

Case ID:  MP-06-020

Contact: otc@utdallas.edu 

Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
OTC Licensing
Ray Baughman
Von Ebron
Zhiwei Yang
Daniel Seyer
Mikhail Kozlov
Jiyoung Oh
Hui Xie
Joselito Razal
John Ferraris
Alan Macdiarmid
William Macaulay
Engineering & Physical Sciences
Fuel Cells
Industrial & Manufacturing
Mechanical Systems
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