Visible and infrared three-wavelength modulated multi-directional actuators.
ABSTRACT: In recent years, light-guided robotic soft actuators have attracted intense scientific attention and rapidly developed, although it still remains challenging to precisely and reversibly modulate the moving directions and shape morphing modes of soft actuators with ease of stimulating operation. Here we report a strategy of building a multi-stimuli-responsive liquid crystal elastomer soft actuator system capable of performing not only multi-directional movement, but also different shape morphing modes. This strategy is based on the selective stimulation of specific domains of the hierarchical structured actuator through the modulation of three wavelength bands (520, 808, 980?nm) of light stimulus, which release the actuation system from light scanning position/direction restriction. Three near-infrared dual-wavelength modulated actuators and one visible/infrared tri-wavelength modulated multi-directional walker robot are demonstrated in this work. These devices have broad application prospects in robotic and biomimetic technology.
Project description:The combination of complex perception, defense, and camouflage mechanisms is a pivotal instinctive ability that equips organisms with survival advantages. The simulations of such fascinating multi-stimuli responsiveness, including thigmotropism, bioluminescence, color-changing ability, and so on, are of great significance for scientists to develop novel biomimetic smart materials. However, most biomimetic color-changing or luminescence materials can only realize a single stimulus-response, hence the design and fabrication of multi-stimuli responsive materials with synergistic color-changing are still on the way. Here, a bioinspired multi-stimuli responsive actuator with color- and morphing-change abilities is developed by taking advantage of the assembled cellulose nanocrystals-based cholesteric liquid crystal structure and its water/temperature response behaviors. The actuator exhibits superfast, reversible bi-directional humidity and near-infrared (NIR) light actuating ability (humidity: 9 s; NIR light: 16 s), accompanying with synergistic iridescent appearance which provides a visual cue for the movement of actuators. This work paves the way for biomimetic multi-stimuli responsive materials and will have a wide range of applications such as optical anti-counterfeiting devices, information storage materials, and smart soft robots.
Project description:A reconfigurable actuator is a stimuli-responsive structure that can be programmed to adapt different shapes under identical stimulus. Reconfigurable actuators that function without control circuitry and are fueled remotely are in great demand to devise adaptive soft robotic devices. Yet, obtaining fast and reliable reconfiguration remains a grand challenge. Here we report a facile fabrication pathway towards reconfigurability, through synergistic use of photochemical and photothermal responses in light-active liquid crystal polymer networks. We utilize azobenzene photoisomerization to locally control the cis-isomer content and to program the actuator response, while subsequent photothermal stimulus actuates the structure, leading to shape morphing. We demonstrate six different shapes reconfigured from one single actuator under identical illumination conditions, and a light-fueled smart gripper that can be commanded to either grip and release or grip and hold an object after ceasing the illumination. We anticipate this work to enable all-optical control over actuator performance, paving way towards reprogrammable soft micro-robotics.
Project description:Soft actuators made from elastomeric active materials can find widespread potential implementation in a variety of applications ranging from assistive wearable technologies targeted at biomedical rehabilitation or assistance with activities of daily living, bioinspired and biomimetic systems, to gripping and manipulating fragile objects, and adaptable locomotion. In this manuscript, we propose a novel two-component soft actuator design and design tool that produces actuators targeted towards these applications with enhanced mechanical performance and manufacturability. Our numerical models developed using the finite element method can predict the actuator behavior at large mechanical strains to allow efficient design iterations for system optimization. Based on two distinctive actuator prototypes' (linear and bending actuators) experimental results that include free displacement and blocked-forces, we have validated the efficacy of the numerical models. The presented extensive investigation of mechanical performance for soft actuators with varying geometric parameters demonstrates the practical application of the design tool, and the robustness of the actuator hardware design, towards diverse soft robotic systems for a wide set of assistive wearable technologies, including replicating the motion of several parts of the human body.
Project description:We report on the fabrication of a rewritable and reprogrammable dual-photoresponsive liquid crystalline-based actuator containing an azomerocyanine dye that can be locally converted into the hydroxyazopyridinium form by acid treatment. Each dye absorbs at a different wavelength giving access to programmable actuators, the folding of which can be controlled by using different colors of light. The acidic patterning is reversible and allows the erasing and rewriting of patterns in the polymer film, giving access to reusable, adjustable soft actuators.
Project description:Soft robotic systems generally require both soft actuators and soft sensors to perform complex functions. Separate actuators and sensors are often combined into one composite device when proprioception (self-sensing) is required. In this article, we introduce the concept of using a conductive liquid to perform both the sensing and actuation functions of a proprioceptive soft actuator. The working fluid drives actuator deformation while simultaneously acting as a strain-sensing component for detecting actuator deformation. The concept is examined and demonstrated in two proprioceptive flexible fluidic actuators (FFAs) that use conductive liquids as their working fluids: a linear actuator and a bending actuator. In both cases, we show that resistance can be used to infer strain. Some hysteresis and nonlinearity are present, but repeatability is high. The bandwidth of resistance as a sensing variable in the bending FFA is tested and found to be ?3.665?Hz. Resistance is demonstrated as a feedback variable in a control loop, and the proprioceptive bending FFA is controlled to respond to step input and sinusoidal target functions. The effect of temperature on resistance-strain behavior is also examined, and we demonstrate how measurement of volume and resistance can be used to detect when the actuator is constrained. Biocompatible proprioceptive soft actuators such as those presented in this article are ideal for use in low-cost bionic healthcare components such as orthotics, prosthetics, or even replacement muscles.
Project description:Soft robotic systems are increasingly emerging as robust alternatives to conventional robotics. Here, we demonstrate the development of programmable soft actuators based on volume expansion/retraction accompanying liquid-vapor phase transition of a phase-change material confined within an elastomer matrix. The combination of a soft matrix (a silicone-based elastomer) and an embedded ethanol-impregnated polyacrylonitrile nanofiber (PAN NF) mat makes it possible to form a sealed compound device that can be operated by changing the actuator temperature above/below the boiling point of ethanol. The thermo-responsive actuators based on this principle demonstrate excellent bending ability at a sufficiently high temperature (>90 °C) - comparable with compressed air-based soft actuators. The actuator using the mechanism presented here is easy to manufacture and automate and is recyclable. Finally, the actuation mechanism can be incorporated into a wide variety of shapes and configurations, making it possible to obtain tunable and programmable soft robots that could have a wide variety of industrial applications.
Project description:An underwater manipulator is essential for underwater robotic sampling and other service operations. Conventional rigid body underwater manipulators generally required substantial size and weight, leading to hindered general applications. Pioneering soft robotic underwater manipulators have defied this by offering dexterous and lightweight arms and grippers, but still requiring substantial actuation and control components to withstand the water pressure and achieving the desired dynamic performance. In this work, we propose a novel approach to underwater manipulator design and control, exploiting the unique characteristics of soft robots, with a hybrid structure (rigid frame+soft actuator) for improved rigidity and force output, a uniform actuator design allowing one compact hydraulic actuation system to drive all actuators, and a novel fully customizable soft bladder design that improves performances in multiple areas: (1) force output of the actuator is decoupled from the working depth, enabling wide working ranges; (2) all actuators are connected to the main hydraulic line without actuator-specific control loop, resulting in a very compact actuation system especially for high-dexterity cases; (3) dynamic responses were improved significantly compared with the counter system without bladder. A prototype soft manipulator with 4-DOFs, dual bladders, and 15?N payload was developed; the entire system (including actuation, control, and batteries) could be mounted onto a consumer-grade remotely operated vehicle, with depth-independent performances validated by various laboratory and field test results across various climatic and hydrographic conditions. Analytical models and validations of the proposed soft bladder design were also presented as a guideline for other applications.
Project description:While soft material actuators can undergo large deformations to execute very complex motions, what is critically lacking in soft material robotic systems is the ability to collect high-resolution shape information for sophisticated functions such as environmental mapping, collision detection, and full state feedback control. This work explores the potential of a nearly commercial fiber optic shape sensor (FOSS) and presents the first demonstrations of a monolithic, multicore FOSS integrated into the structure of a fiber-reinforced soft actuator. In this pilot study, we report an open loop sensorized soft actuator capable of submillimeter position feedback that can detect the soft actuator's shape, environmental shapes, collision locations, and material stiffness properties.
Project description:Pneumatically-actuated soft robots have advantages over traditional rigid robots in many applications. In particular, their flexible bodies and gentle air-powered movements make them more suitable for use around humans and other objects that could be injured or damaged by traditional robots. However, existing systems for controlling soft robots currently require dedicated electromechanical hardware (usually solenoid valves) to maintain the actuation state (expanded or contracted) of each independent actuator. When combined with power, computation, and sensing components, this control hardware adds considerable cost, size, and power demands to the robot, thereby limiting the feasibility of soft robots in many important application areas. In this work, we introduce a pneumatic memory that uses air (not electricity) to set and maintain the states of large numbers of soft robotic actuators without dedicated electromechanical hardware. These pneumatic logic circuits use normally-closed microfluidic valves as transistor-like elements; this enables our circuits to support more complex computational functions than those built from normally-open valves. We demonstrate an eight-bit nonvolatile random-access pneumatic memory (RAM) that can maintain the states of multiple actuators, control both individual actuators and multiple actuators simultaneously using a pneumatic version of time division multiplexing (TDM), and set actuators to any intermediate position using a pneumatic version of analog-to-digital conversion. We perform proof-of-concept experimental testing of our pneumatic RAM by using it to control soft robotic hands playing individual notes, chords, and songs on a piano keyboard. By dramatically reducing the amount of hardware required to control multiple independent actuators in pneumatic soft robots, our pneumatic RAM can accelerate the spread of soft robotic technologies to a wide range of important application areas.
Project description:Development of biomimetic actuators has been an essential motivation in the study of smart materials. However, few materials are capable of controlling complex twisting and bending deformations simultaneously or separately using a dynamic control system. Here, we report an ionic polymer-metal composite actuator having multiple-shape memory effect, and is able to perform complex motion by two external inputs, electrical and thermal. Prior to the development of this type of actuator, this capability only could be realized with existing actuator technologies by using multiple actuators or another robotic system. This paper introduces a soft multiple-shape-memory polymer-metal composite (MSMPMC) actuator having multiple degrees-of-freedom that demonstrates high maneuverability when controlled by two external inputs, electrical and thermal. These multiple inputs allow for complex motions that are routine in nature, but that would be otherwise difficult to obtain with a single actuator. To the best of the authors' knowledge, this MSMPMC actuator is the first solitary actuator capable of multiple-input control and the resulting deformability and maneuverability.