Research

Soft Robots

Jellyfish robot

This work focuses on development of a jellyfish robot using a dielectric elastomer actuator which exhibits muscle-like properties including large deformation and high energy density. We carry out experiments to test the actuator’s deformation and force. Theoretical simulations are conducted to analyze the performance of the actuator, which are qualitatively consistent with the experiments. The preliminary studies show that this jellyfish robot based on dielectric elastomer technology can move effectively in water. The robot also exhibits fast response and high capacity of payload (compared to its self-weight).

 

Soft inch-worm robot

 

This work design and developed an inchworm-like robot based on DEMES structure. When subject to voltage, the DEMES structure exhibits muscle-like large deformation and tends to expand. Two feet are designed using electro-adhesion mechanism which can adhere to the surface when actuated by voltage. During the movement, two feet are actuated alternatively according to the frequency of voltage applied to the robot body (DEMES), which enable the robot to move forward or backward. The robot can “walk” effectively on flat and inclined surfaces. It can also achieve turning by applying specific voltage signals.


Soft Active Materials

Artificial muscle for jaw movement

In this work we develop artificial muscles for jaw movements, using dielectric elastomer actuators with embedded plastic fibers. The soft actuator can avert electromechanical instability and achieve a linear strain of 48%. The actuators are installed in a robotic skull to drive jaw movements, at the positions similar to those of the masseters in a human jaw. The experiments show that these artificial muscles can achieve periodic jaw movements with displacements and velocities comparable to those achieved by natural muscles. The actuators can also achieve jaw movements with various amplitudes and frequencies, mimicking the human singing (or talking) activities. The present studies demonstrate that dielectric elastomer actuators are capable of achieving accurate and controllable deformations/movements, which is significant in the applications to soft and biomimetic robots.


Smart Materials and Structure

Origami robot

Origami robots are one kind of soft robots whose structures are fabricated with origami technique. The origami technique greatly simplifies the fabrication process since one can easily transform a 2-D pattern into a 3-D structure with folding only. Origami robot which is driven by the DC motor and can move very fast. Since DC motor is used, it cannot be classified into soft robots, and the assembly of the DC motor also is complex. Another category of origami robots used the contraction force of SMA as the driving force. Due to the movement mechanism of the SMA, the velocity of these robots is slow.

In this work, a soft origami robot which is driven by the electrostatic force is introduced. The fabrication process of the origami robot will be presented. Experiments have been conducted. Experimental results show that the robot can move two dimensionally on land and move also in the water. FEM model has been built to simulate the motion of the origami robot, and the simulation results show good agreement with experimental measurement.

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