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Spoiler: This paper from our lab, detailing the design of the artificial muscles, the first of their kind, as well as this sensing system used for testing and design improvements, was accepted and published by Science (view paper here), and garnered press from publications including National Geographic  and Wired.

Design for a self-sensing program for self-healing, soft robotic artificial muscles that uses only feedback transmitted through the high voltage wiring that actuates the muscle.

KEPLINGER RESEARCH GROUP

The objective of this project was to design and build a self-sensing program for self-healing, soft robotic artificial muscles that uses only feedback transmitted through the high voltage wiring that actuates the muscle.  

Why is this useful? If an artificial muscle "knows" its position in space when it's activated by a certain voltage, then you can correlate voltages to specific movements - meaning you can create a feedback loop to precisely control the motion of the muscle

  1. Literature review

  2. Fabrication of actuators (muscles)

  3. Design and build hardware set-up

  4. Design software program to acquire and analyze data

  5. Testing and iteration (test, redesign and re-fabricate, test, redesign, ... ) 

  6. Optimization of output signal (ensure that the signal is clear and accurately represents the position of the muscle)

  7. Create physical demonstration to clearly show working self-sensing system.

  • Literature review

  • Design of experiments

  • Self-guided learning and understanding of complex concepts (software programming, complex impedance in RC circuits, system dynamics)

  • Fabrication and assembly of self-healing actuators

  • Design of hardware set-up

  • Use of high voltage amplifier

  • Design of LabView software program for data acquisition (knowledge of sampling rates, efficient coding)

  • Design of Matlab program for data analysis

  • Design of hardware set-up for showcase demo (laser-cutting, wood-working, integration of electronics)

  • Technical and informal writing; presentation

The field of soft robotics is motivated by the need to create more energy-efficient, adaptable, and interactive machines.

 

Natural muscles are all of the above. Development of man-made machines with performance similar to systems found in nature could lead to innovative solutions in a number of scientific fields. Much of soft robotics research is devoted to mimicking natural phenomena.

Structures that actuate (move) in response to an external stimulus are referred to as artificial muscles. The Keplinger Research Group develops soft machines based on polymer and elastomer structures that actuate in response to the application of high voltage and are self-healing if damaged by sparking due to voltage. These machines can act as transducers for precision sensing, actuation, and energy generation, translating electrical energy to mechanical energy, and vice-versa.

View the Keplinger Research Group's website here.

The paper detailing the design of these artificial muscles, the first of their kind, as well as this sensing system used for testing and design improvements, was accepted and published by Science, and garnered press from publications including National Geographic and Wired.

View our paper here.

View coverage in National Geographic here.

View coverage in Wired here.