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Smarter materials for simpler robotics

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Fulvio Forni.

Soft robotics has emerged as an important new paradigm within robotics where compliance is exploited to create new types of system that safely and intelligently interact with humans and uncertain environments. Soft robotics represents a shift from the traditional basis of how a robot should be designed, since intelligent responses and behaviours can be embodied into the morphology of the robot. However, limitations in soft actuators and sensors have become a technological bottleneck, which has limited how effectively soft robots can be untethered and applied outside of laboratory conditions. In this talk, I will first discuss how the use of soft and compliant materials in soft robotics creates new opportunities to reimagine conventional control and planning loops in robotics. This includes the challenges of sensing and controlling the greatly increased number of degrees-of-freedom inherent to soft materials. Recent work on stimuli-responsive dielectric elastomers (DEs) will then be presented, which offer great potential as lightweight actuators in soft robotic systems and as soft and stretchable energy harvesters. However, their non-linear transduction response makes their design and control challenging. Methods to predict and exploit the highly non-linear dynamic response of coupled DE membranes for advanced actuation performance will be discussed. Finally, it will be shown how these advances can increase actuator performance, maximise energy transmission and untether pneumatic soft robots.

The seminar will be held in the JDB Seminar Room, Department of Engineering, and online (zoom):

This talk is part of the CUED Control Group Seminars series.

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