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Title: Utilizing the Peltier effect for actuation of thermo-active soft robots

The field of soft actuation methods in robotics is rapidly advancing and holds promise for physical interactions between humans and robots due to the adaptability of materials and compliant structures. Among these methods, thermally-responsive soft actuators are particularly unique, ensuring portability as they do not require stationary pumps, or high voltage sources, or remote magnetic field. However, since working principles of these actuators are based on Joule heating, the systems are inefficient and dramatically slow, especially due to their passive cooling process. This paper proposes using the Peltier effect as a reversible heating/cooling mechanism for thermo-active soft actuators to enable faster deformations, more efficient heat transfer, and active cooling. The proposed actuator is composed of a thin elastic membrane filled with phase-change fluid that can vaporize when heated to produce large deformations. This membrane is placed in a braided mesh to create a McKibben muscle that can lift 5 N after 60 s of heating, and is further formed into a gripper capable of manipulating objects within the environment. The effectiveness of the proposed actuator is demonstrated, and its potential applications in various fields are discussed.

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Smart Materials and Structures
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Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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