International Encyclopedia of Rehabilitation

Artificial muscle

Device used for the replacement of a paralyzed muscle (in an orthosis) or absent muscle (in a prosthesis). There are essentially two types.

  1. Usually nylon mesh in the shape of a small sausage that enlarges, hence shortens (like a contracting muscle), upon being filled by carbon dioxide gas from a reservoir of liquefied CO2. The patient operates the appliance by a simple motion of another body part, thus activating a pneumatic valve. A cable attached to the "muscle" pulls the part of the orthosis or prosthesis to be moved. The device was invented by Joseph L. McKibben, physicist at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, New Mexico. Called also McKibben muscle or pneumatic muscle.
  2. Another device, powered by electric current, performs a similar function by pulling a cable.


Eisenberg MG. 1995. Dictionary of Rehabilitation. New York: Springer Publishing Company. 375 p. Used with permission.

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