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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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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 4, 2023
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    Locomotion of an organism interacting with an environment is the consequence of a symmetry-breaking action in space-time. Here we show a minimal instantiation of this principle using a thin circular sheet, actuated symmetrically by a pneumatic source, using pressure to change shape nonlinearly via a spontaneous buckling instability. This leads to a polarized, bilaterally symmetric cone that can walk on land and swim in water. In either mode of locomotion, the emergence of shape asymmetry in the sheet leads to an asymmetric interaction with the environment that generates movement––via anisotropic friction on land, and via directed inertial forces in water. Scaling laws for the speed of the sheet of the actuator as a function of its size, shape, and the frequency of actuation are consistent with our observations. The presence of easily controllable reversible modes of buckling deformation further allows for a change in the direction of locomotion in open arenas and the ability to squeeze through confined environments––both of which we demonstrate using simple experiments. Our simple approach of harnessing elastic instabilities in soft structures to drive locomotion enables the design of novel shape-changing robots and other bioinspired machines at multiple scales. 
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