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  1. We use magnetohydrodynamic levitation as a means to create a soft, elastomeric, solenoid-driven pump (ESP). We present a theoretical framework and fabrication of a pump designed to address the unique challenges of soft robotics, maintaining pumping performance under deformation. Using a permanent magnet as a piston and ferrofluid as a liquid seal, we model and construct a deformable displacement pump. The magnet is driven back and forth along the length of a flexible core tube by a series of solenoids made of thin conductive wire. The magnet piston is kept concentric within the tube by Maxwell stresses within the ferrofluid and magnetohydrodynamic levitation, as viscous lift pressure is created due to its forward velocity. The centering of the magnet reduces shear stresses during pumping and improves efficiency. We provide a predictive model and capture the transient nonlinear dynamics of the magnet during operation, leading to a parametric performance curve characterizing the ESP, enabling goal-driven design. In our experimental validation, we report a shut-off pressure of 2 to 8 kPa and run-out flow rate of 50 to 320 mL⋅min −1 , while subject to deformation of its own length scale, drawing a total of 0.17 W. This performance leads to themore »highest reported duty point (i.e., pressure and flow rate provided under load) for a pump that operates under deformation of its own length scale. We then integrate the pump into an elastomeric chassis and squeeze it through a tortuous pathway while providing continuous fluid pressure and flow rate; the vehicle then emerges at the other end and propels itself swimming.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 19, 2023
  2. An optical, elastomeric matrix encodes spatiotemporal haptic stimuli, such as temperature, deformation, and damage, into light.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 8, 2023
  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 17, 2023
  4. null (Ed.)
    Artificial muscles based on stimuli-responsive polymers usually exhibit mechanical compliance, versatility, and high power-to-weight ratio, showing great promise to potentially replace conventional rigid motors for next-generation soft robots, wearable electronics, and biomedical devices. In particular, thermomechanical liquid crystal elastomers (LCEs) constitute artificial muscle-like actuators that can be remotely triggered for large stroke, fast response, and highly repeatable actuations. Here, we introduce a digital light processing (DLP)–based additive manufacturing approach that automatically shear aligns mesogenic oligomers, layer-by-layer, to achieve high orientational order in the photocrosslinked structures; this ordering yields high specific work capacity (63 J kg −1 ) and energy density (0.18 MJ m −3 ). We demonstrate actuators composed of these DLP printed LCEs’ applications in soft robotics, such as reversible grasping, untethered crawling, and weightlifting. Furthermore, we present an LCE self-sensing system that exploits thermally induced optical transition as an intrinsic option toward feedback control.
  5. Existing tactile stimulation technologies powered by small actuators offer low-resolution stimuli compared to the enormous mechanoreceptor density of human skin. Arrays of soft pneumatic actuators initially show promise as small-resolution (1- to 3-mm diameter), highly conformable tactile display strategies yet ultimately fail because of their need for valves bulkier than the actuators themselves. In this paper, we demonstrate an array of individually addressable, soft fluidic actuators that operate without electromechanical valves. We achieve this by using microscale combustion and localized thermal flame quenching. Precisely, liquid metal electrodes produce sparks to ignite fuel lean methane–oxygen mixtures in a 5-mm diameter, 2-mm tall silicone cylinder. The exothermic reaction quickly pressurizes the cylinder, displacing a silicone membrane up to 6 mm in under 1 ms. This device has an estimated free-inflation instantaneous stroke power of 3 W. The maximum reported operational frequency of these cylinders is 1.2 kHz with average displacements of ∼100 µm. We demonstrate that, at these small scales, the wall-quenching flame behavior also allows operation of a 3 × 3 array of 3-mm diameter cylinders with 4-mm pitch. Though we primarily present our device as a tactile display technology, it is a platform microactuator technology with application beyond this one.

  6. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 17, 2023