Skeletal muscle is a biological example of a linear electro-active actuator

Richard L. Lieber*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Skeletal muscle represents a classic biological example of a structure-function relationship. This paper reviews basic muscle anatomy and demonstrates how molecular motion on the order of nm distances is converted into the macroscopic movements that are possible with skeletal muscle. Muscle anatomy provides a structural basis for understanding the basic mechanical properties of skeletal muscle - namely, the length-tension relationship and the force-velocity relationships. The length-tension relationship illustrates that muscle force generation is extremely length dependent due to the interdigitation of the contractile filaments. The force-velocity relationship is characterized by a rapid force drop in muscle with increasing shortening velocity and a rapid rise in force when muscles are forced to lengthen. Finally, muscle architecture - the number and arrangement of muscle fibers - has a profound effect on the magnitude of muscle force generated and the magnitude of muscle excursion. These concepts demonstrate the elegant manner in which muscle acts as a biologically regenerating linear motor. These concepts can be used in developing artificial muscles as well as in performing surgical reconstructive procedures with various donor muscles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-25
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
StatePublished - Jan 1 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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