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Ordinary fishing line and sewing thread can be cheaply converted to powerful artificial muscles, an international team led by The University of Texas at Dallas has discovered.

The new muscles can lift 100 times more weight and generate 100 times higher mechanical power than a human muscle of the same length and weight. Per weight, they can generate 7.1 horsepower per kilogram, about the same mechanical power as a jet engine.

In a paper published Feb. 21 in the journal Science, the researchers explain that the powerful muscles are produced by twisting and coiling high-strength polymer fishing line and sewing thread. Scientists at UT Dallas’ Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute teamed with scientists from universities in Australia, South Korea, Canada, Turkey and China to accomplish the advances.

Monofilament fishing line was innovated by DuPont in 1938 very shortly after the company announced the invention of Nylon.  This was the first synthetic fiber.  Many ideas ‘spun’ around in the heads of the DuPont product development engineers when inspiration struck like a trout in a Colorado spring.  Fishing line had been around for millennia; DuPont simply brought Nylon to the fisherman’s tackle box.

Invention is the creation of something new and previously unavailable.  Out of imagination and ideation, invention is born.

Innovation is the ‘mashup’ of imagination and ideation with existing or emerging technologies and processes to transform both the tangible and intangible into productive or entertaining results.  Fishing Line + Nylon = Monofilament Fishing Line.  This innovation is a vast improvement with many benefits over previous cotton or other natural fibers.

This is a great lesson on the difference between invention and innovation.