There is a popular belief that the muscles of our body are controlled only by electrical impulses. This is not entirely a lie, but ... From what little I have researched, the nerves send a command for the muscle fibers to contract into a chemical reaction involving ATP that releases a certain amount of energy that causes the fibers to contract.

If I were to make an alternate world where living beings evolved to use electricity in their own body to contract the muscles, would that actually be feasible? Evolution always goes by the path of the dynamic and viable adapting to the environment, so I am in doubt, because for this to be possible, would require an absurd amount of energy, and with that, an absurd need to feed.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding.SE! We're glad you could join us! When you have a moment, please click here to learn more about our culture and take our tour. The only answer to this question is "yes." Given enough time, almost anything is possible with evolution. Can you explain better what you mean by using electricity to contract the muscles? Do you mean in the same way that receiving an electric shock causes them to contract? Note that receiving a shock strong enough to force muscles to contract is always damaging. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 16:26
  • $\begingroup$ Hi Neto. You might have a look at this and see how it works. sarna.net/news/… $\endgroup$
    – pojo-guy
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 16:39
  • $\begingroup$ To expand on what JBH said, what I think you are talking about for an "electric muscle" is a muscle whose power source is external to the muscle and transmitted to the muscle via electricity. This contrasts with real muscles, whose power source is ATP and glucose in the muscle body which is used chemically (as you say, triggered by an electrical impulse). Or are you referring to a "muscle" whose pulling force is entierly derived from electrostatic forces? $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 17:03
  • $\begingroup$ ... or indeed electromagnetic forces. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 17:31
  • $\begingroup$ "An absurd amount of energy:" why would it require more energy than what's required by regular muscles? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 17:47

1 Answer 1


The electric impulses are just the signal that causes a biochemical reaction to contract the muscle. When you get shocked, your muscles contract because you get a permanent signal to do so.
However the energy to lift a mass of 1 kilogram in a height of 1 meter is constant. It doesn't matter if the energy is created biological or electrical. It's a specific amount of calories for the work (though I'm too lazy to calculate it now).
The only difference is the energy conversion efficiency. When you eat 1000 calories, it doesn't mean your body gets an energy amount of 1000 calories to move (or get fat). A big part is always lost (more than 70%). But the same thing applys to every lifeform and every machine. See the Wikipedia article for energy conversion efficiency. There is a nice table, that shows, that most machines today have a better energy conversion efficiency than lifeforms.

Tl;dr: using electricity to move muscles is perfectly fine.


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