This research project focuses on the advancement and development of multifunctional Artificial Muscles (AMs) for novel 3D soft robotic systems. AM actuators and sensors afford a range of technical benefits over other active materials. Advantages include soft and flexible structure, large range of motion, and fast response. Although AM materials have demonstrated good performance, inherent material drawbacks currently restrict their practical application. Such drawbacks include:
(i) low actuation force caused by the soft nature of the polymer,
(ii) relatively small bending strain capability, and
(iii) limited control precision.
The ultimate goal of this research is to address these critical issues and develop an effective and reliable IPMC-based AM technology for soft robotic applications. The multidisciplinary team consists of experts in robotics, controls, multi-physics modeling, device fabrication, and materials development. The PIRE research will not only address the aforementioned material drawbacks but also aggressively expand the applications of AM in the area of soft robotics, training the future workforce to be more globally competitive.
Research Task 1: Development of Ionomer Materials Based on Hydrocarbon Polymer Electrolytes
Research Task 2: Advanced Manufacturing and Precision Control of AMs for Soft Robotic Systems
Research Task 3: Computational Modeling of AMs
Research Task 4: Electrode Design and Electrochemical Optimization
Research Task 5: Development of Underwater Soft Robotic Systems