Fundamentals and working mechanisms of artificial muscles with textile application in the loop

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleContributedpeer-review



Natural muscles, that convert chemical energy derived from glucose into mechanical and thermal energy, are capable of performing complex movements. This natural muscle power was the only way to perform mechanical work in a targeted manner for millions of years. In the course of thousands of years of technical development, mankind has succeeded in harnessing various physical and chemical phenomena to drive specific mechanical processes. Wind and water power, steam and combustion engines or electric motors are just a few examples. However, in order to make the diversity and flexibility of natural motion patterns usable for machines, attempts have been made for many years to develop artificial muscles. These man-made smart materials or structures are able to react to environmental conditions by significantly changing their shape or size. For the design of effective artificial muscles that closely resemble the natural original, the usage of textile technology offers great advantages. By means of weaving, individual actuators can be parallelized, which enables the transmission of greater forces. By knitting the maximum stretching performance can be enhanced by combining the intrinsic stretching capacity of the actuators with the structural-geometric stretching capacity of the fabric. Furthermore textile production techniques are well suited for the requirement-specific, individual placement of actuators in order to achieve the optimal geometry for the respective needs in every load case. Ongoing technical development has created fiber based and non-fibrous artificial muscles that are capable of mimicking and even out-performing their biological prodigy. Meanwhile, a large number of partly similar, but also very different functional principles and configurations were developed, each with its own specific characteristics. This paper provides an overview of the relevant and most promising technical approaches for realizing artificial muscles, classifies them to specific material types and explains the mechanisms used as well as the possible textile applications.


Original languageEnglish
Article number023001
Number of pages26
JournalSmart materials and structures
Volume31 (2022)
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2021

External IDs

Scopus 85122494754
ORCID /0000-0001-7698-9095/work/142245241


Research priority areas of TU Dresden


  • artificial muscles, electroactive polymers, pneumatic artificial muscles, shape memory materials, soft robotics, textile actuator