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Robotic Tentacles with Three-Dimensional Mobility Based on Flexible Elastomers

Lihua Jin's picture

Soft pneumatic robots based on flexible elastomers can distribute pressure uniformly over large areas without elaborate controls; this capability makes it possible for them to manipulate fragile and irregular objects. This communication describes the design and fabrication of soft tentacles based on micropneumatic networks spatially distributed at the interface of two different elastomers; these composite elastomeric structures enable complex 3D motion of the tentacles. We demonstrate both the range of motion open to these tentacles, and their capability to grip and manipulate objects with complex shapes. It turns out the snap-through instability of the tentacle structure significantly increases the actuation motion and bending, and also helps to realize the region-selective actuation. We also extend the capabilities of these soft actuators by embedding functional components (for example, a needle for delivering fluid, a video camera, and a suction cup) in them. We further demonstrate that modifying the texture of the surface of the tentacles can improve their adhesion to slippery surfaces.

For more details:

Ramses V. Martinez, Jamie L. Branch, Carina R. Fish, Lihua Jin, Robert F. Shepherd, Zhigang Suo, and George M. Whitesides. Robotic tentacles with three-dimensional mobility based on flexible elastomers. Advanced Materials. Online.

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