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Creators/Authors contains: "Root, Samuel E."

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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 12, 2024
  2. In soft devices, complex actuation sequences and precise force control typically require hard electronic valves and microcontrollers. Existing designs for entirely soft pneumatic control systems are capable of either digital or analog operation, but not both, and are limited by speed of actuation, range of pressure, time required for fabrication, or loss of power through pull-down resistors. Using the nonlinear mechanics intrinsic to structures composed of soft materials—in this case, by leveraging membrane inversion and tube kinking—two modular soft components are developed: a piston actuator and a bistable pneumatic switch. These two components combine to create valves capable of analog pressure regulation, simplified digital logic, controlled oscillation, nonvolatile memory storage, linear actuation, and interfacing with human users in both digital and analog formats. Three demonstrations showcase the capabilities of systems constructed from these valves: 1) a wearable glove capable of analog control of a soft artificial robotic hand based on input from a human user’s fingers, 2) a human-controlled cushion matrix designed for use in medical care, and 3) an untethered robot which travels a distance dynamically programmed at the time of operation to retrieve an object. This work illustrates pathways for complementary digital and analog control of soft robots using a unified valve design. 
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  5. Abstract

    Polymer semiconductors (PSCs) are essential active materials in mechanically stretchable electronic devices. However, many exhibit low fracture strain due to their rigid chain conformation and the presence of large crystalline domains. Here, a PSC/elastomer blend, poly[((2,6‐bis(thiophen‐2‐yl)‐3,7‐bis(9‐octylnonadecyl)thieno[3,2‐b]thieno[2′,3′:4,5]thieno[2,3‐d]thiophene)‐5,5′‐diyl)(2,5‐bis(8‐octyloctadecyl)‐3,6‐di(thiophen‐2‐yl)pyrrolo[3,4‐c]pyrrole‐1,4‐dione)‐5,5′‐diyl]] (P2TDPP2TFT4) and polystyrene‐block‐poly(ethylene‐ran‐butylene)‐block‐polystyrene (SEBS) are systematically investigated. Specifically, the effects of molecular weight of both SEBS and P2TDPP2TFT4 on the resulting blend morphology, mechanical, and electrical properties are explored. In addition to commonly used techniques, atomic force microscopy‐based nanomechanical images are used to provide additional insights into the blend film morphology. Opposing trends in SEBS‐induced aggregation are observed for the different P2TDPP2TFT4 molecular weights upon increasing the SEBS molecular weight from 87 to 276 kDa. Furthermore, these trends are seen in device performance trends for both molecular weights of P2TDPP2TFT4. SEBS molecular weight also has a substantial influence on the mesoscale phase separation. Strain at fracture increases dramatically upon blending, reaching a maximum value of 640% ± 20% in the blended films measured with film‐on‐water method. These results highlight the importance of molecular weight for electronic devices. In addition, this study provides valuable insights into appropriate polymer selections for stretchable semiconducting thin films that simultaneously possess excellent mechanical and electrical properties.

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  6. Abstract

    A type of haptic device is described that delivers two modes of stimulation simultaneously and at the same location on the skin. The two modes of stimulation are mechanical (delivered pneumatically by inflatable air pockets embedded within a silicone elastomer) and electrical (delivered by a conductive polymer). The key enabling aspect of this work is the use of a highly plasticized conductive polymer based on poly(3,4‐ethylenedioxythiphene) (PEDOT) blended with elastomeric polyurethane (PU). To fabricate the “electropneumotactile” device, the polymeric electrodes are overlaid directly on top of the elastomeric pneumatic actuator pockets. Co‐placement of the pneumatic actuators and the electrotactile electrodes is enabled by the stretchability of the PEDOT:tosylate/PU blend, allowing the electrotactiles to conform to underlying pneumatic pockets under deformation. The blend of PEDOT and PU has a Young's modulus of ≈150 MPa with little degradation in conductivity following repeated inflation of the air pockets. The ability to perceive simultaneous delivery of two sensations to the same location on the skin is supported by experiments using human subjects. These results show that participants can successfully detect the location of pneumatic stimulation and whether electrotactile stimulation is delivered (yes/no) at a rate significantly above chance (mean accuracy = 94%).

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