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UNLV-Led Team Awarded $3.8 Million to Advance Artificial Muscle Research

UNLV engineering professors team with researchers from Korea, Japan as part of grant-funded National Science Foundation international research program.
Research  |  Sep 29, 2015  |  By Francis McCabe
Media Contact: Francis McCabe (702) 895-5515

UNLV Engineering professor Kwang Kim is on a team of researchers developing composites for use in artificial muscles. (R. Marsh Starks/UNLV Photo Services)

A UNLV-led research team has received a $3.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation to create advanced artificial muscles for use in soft robotics that could one day help millions of people with disabilities.

Soft robotics is an emerging field where the components of a robot are made of pliable materials. UNLV engineering professor Kwang Kim and partner researchers from UNLV, Korea, and Japan are developing new polymer-metal composites to improve the function and lower the cost of artificial muscles.

If successful, the artificial muscles developed will advance the robotics industry and could also be used in medical diagnostics and tools or for invasive surgical systems.

Kim, a pioneer in artificial muscle research, will work closely with UNLV engineering colleague and renowned robotics expert Paul Oh.

“The development of artificial muscles will benefit understanding of methods that mimic biology and could be applied in many fields of engineering and science in connection with soft robotics,” Kim said.

Students will also benefit from the grant through these partnerships with international collaborators, who will provide them with sophisticated skills in cutting-edge soft robotics technologies, Kim added.

The grant was awarded through the National Science Foundation’s “Partnerships for International Research and Education” (PIRE) program, designed to strengthen scientific collaboration between U.S. and international researchers. The UNLV project is one of 17 awarded through PIRE this week.

“By linking together researchers from around the world, PIRE allows us to leverage U.S. dollars and improve scientific outcomes,” said Rebecca Keisler of NSF’s Office of International Science and Engineering in a release. “These rich partnerships will tackle some of today’s most pressing research questions.”

International collaborators on the UNLV-led project include researchers from South Korea (Il-Kwon Oh, of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) and Japan (Kinji Asaka, of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology). Other U.S. collaborators include Kam Leang, of the University of Utah; Chulsung Bae, of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; and Maurizio Porfiri, of the Polytechnic Institute of New York University.