Success Story

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory Assists High Tech Woman Owned Small Business Develop Synthetic Muscles

Ras Lab, LLC, a high tech woman owned small business, is devoted to the development of synthetic muscle for prosthetics and robotics and has been collaborating with the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) for over five years. Ras Labs makes Synthetic MuscleTM – electroactive polymer (EAP) based materials and actuators that contract, and expand with reversed electric polarity, at low voltage with minimal heat and noise signatures. Most EAPs bend. Ras Labs’ unique EAPs contract and expand and can be cycled repeatedly. Recently, Ras Lab has been invited to evaluate these shape morphing EAPs for resistance to radiation on the International Space Station (ISS) through the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS).

The purpose of the CASIS-ISS-Ras Lab’s Project is to make synthetic muscle radiation resistant, also known as radiation hardened or rad hard. Synthetic MuscleTM has already proven cold hardiness down to 4 K and preliminary studies at PPPL indicate that these EAPs are also inherently radiation resistant. Ras Labs used PPPL’s facilities to evaluate Gen 3 and Gen 4 Synthetic MuscleTM with various additives and coatings and will then further evaluate these EAPs under the intense radiation environment of the ISS to demonstrate superb radiation resistance. Robust EAPs that can survive extreme temperatures and extremely radioactive conditions would provide dual use on earth and in space, including long-term space travel.

The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory has plasma capabilities and gamma and neutron radiation sources available for evaluating how Synthetic MuscleTM will function when exposed to radiation in space. For the CASISISS-Ras Labs Project, the EAPs are being adhered to plasma treated titanium coupons. These shape morphing EAPS adhere well to oxygen plasma treated titanium, so the plasma treated metal coupons are serving as mounts for the EAPs. This is how the EAPs were secured in place during the preliminary radiation experiments at PPPL and how the EAPs will be secured, in addition to a protective structure and double containment, for the payload launch to the ISS and during the ISS National Laboratory experiment in its zero gravity, high solar and cosmic radiation environment.