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Space Technology Research Grants

Multi-Purpose Artificial Muscle and Sensor Array for Untethered Soft Robots

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Multi-Purpose Artificial Muscle and Sensor Array for Untethered Soft Robots
“Soft” machines and electronics contain little or no rigid material and remain functional under large elastic deformation. Because they are soft, lightweight, impact resistant, and collapsible, these technologies have the potential to revolutionize robotics for human-machine interaction and space exploration. In this project, my research team and I will accelerate the application of soft machines to space robotics by introducing a “soft robotic tissue” composite embedded with soft elastic sensors, circuit wiring, rigidity-tunable elements, and actuators. These general-purpose elastic films will be millimeters thick and cover a large area. Because the films are soft and stretchable, they can conform to any shape or volume without exerting mechanical resistance. When integrated into clothing, soft robotics, or collapsible structure, the elastic composites can function as “artificial” skin, nervous tissue, or muscle. Potential applications range from strain, pressure, and curvature sensing for shape and contact detection to compact actuators that enable mobility and manipulation without reliance on bulky motors, transmission systems, or pneumatic hardware. More »

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