Muscle-Powered Biomimetic Robotics


Achieving human-like or animal-like performance in robotics it’s a tough problem. The musculoskeletal systems in our bodies are well-tuned for high-strength and quick-reflexes, while being fluidic and highly-dexterous. Achieving robotic performance that matches or exceeds the performance of natural muscle must therefore match many of these qualities. 


We have developed robotic actuators and mechanism designs that mimic natural muscle performance. These robot actuators have significant use for human augmentation, prosthetics, and animatronics. Our recent work shows that off-the-shelf conductive sewing thread can be formed into robotic muscles that achieve high-strength and fast-actuation in a light-weight, thin form-factor.


Our focus is now on developing a foundational approach towards muscle-powered machines that move using biomimetic muscle actuators. Despite the decades of materials research in discovering new muscles and improving existing muscles, their transition into more widespread use in robot systems and machines to date has been limited. We are therefore motivated to investigate a unifying modeling, control, and design strategy for robot muscles that could lower the barrier to muscle-powered robotics research. 


A significant effort of this project is the development of an open-source platform that democratizes the fabrication, characterization/calibration, and control of robot muscles and reduces the burden to entry for robot muscles by providing accessible models, controllers, and designs that will enable new researchers and engineers in the field to quickly grasp concepts and focus on muscle-powered machine design.

Source Materials:

Students and Collaborators


Taylor Henderson

Angela Liu

Yuheng Zhi


Data-driven Actuator Selection for Artificial Muscle-Powered Robots

T. Henderson, Y. Zhi, A. Liu, M.C. Yip

IEEE Conference on Robotics and Automation (Accepted). Xi'an, China (2021). [arxiv][website]

Bundled Super-Coiled Polymer Artificial Muscles: Design, Characterization, and Modeling

A. Simeonov, T. Henderson, Z. Lan, G. Sundar, A. Factor, J. Zhang and M. C. Yip

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 1671-1678,2018. [pdf][vid]


Three-dimensional hysteresis compensation enhances accuracy of robotic artificial muscles

J. Zhang, A. Simeonov and M. C. Yip

Smart Materials and Structures,  vol. 27, no. 3, p. 035002, 2018. [pdf]

Three-Dimensional Hysteresis Modeling of Robotic Artificial Muscles with Application to Shape Memory Alloy Actuators

J. Zhang, M. Yip

Robotics: Science and Systems. July 12-16, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 8 pages. 2017. ISBN 978-0-9923747-3-0. [pdf]

Modeling and Inverse Compensation of Hysteresis in Supercoiled Polymer Artificial Muscles

J. Zhang, K. Iyer, A. Simeonov and M. C. Yip

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 773-780, 2017. [pdf]


Three-dimensional hysteresis modeling of robotic artificial muscles with application to shape memory alloy actuators 

J. Zhang and M. C. Yip

, in Robotics: Science and Systems workshop: Material Robotics -- Bridging Materials Science and Robotics, 2017 

Designing Muscle-Powered Robotics using Super-coiled Polymers 

J. Zhang and M. Yip

Robotics: Science and Systems. In workshop: Robot Makers: The future of digital rapid design and fabrication of robots. June 18-21, 2016. Ann-Arbor, Michigan. [pdf]

High-Performance Robotic Muscles from Conductive Nylon Sewing Thread | Best paper award finalist

M. Yip and G. Niemeyer

IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation - ICRA2015. May 26-30, 2015. Seattle, WA. pp. 2313-2318.  [pdf][vid]