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Soft Actuators Could Make Soft Robots Less Bulky

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An electrically controlled, untethered soft robot built out of four soft tubular actuators, a microcontroller, and a battery.

Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed a way to build soft robots using soft tubular actuators.

Credit: David Baillot/UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering

University of California, San Diego engineers have developed soft, tubular actuators with electrically driven movements for compact, portable, and multifunctional soft robots.

The actuators are composed of liquid-crystal elastomers that change shape, and move and contract in response to thermal or electric stimulation.

Sandwiched between the elastomer films are three heating wires, which are rolled into a tube, pre-stretched, and exposed to ultraviolet light. Applying electricity to one or two wires causes the tube to bend in the wires' direction, and a current passing through all three induces contraction.

The team used the actuators to assemble an untethered, battery-powered walking robot with four legs, and a soft gripper that grasps and picks up small objects with three actuators functioning like fingers.

From UC San Diego News Center
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