Yarns made of the tiny straws of carbon called nanotubes have an astounding ability to twist as they contract, scientists have found.
The effect, reported in Science, is similar to the action of muscles found in elephant trunks and squid tentacles.
However, the yarns twist 1,000 times as much as previous “artificial muscles”.
The effect, which occurs thanks to a conducting fluid in which the yarns were dipped, could be put to use in motors much thinner than a human hair.
The team of researchers from Australia, the US, Canada and South Korea demonstrated motors that could spin at nearly 600 revolutions per minute, turning a weight 2,000 times heavier than the yarn itself.