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Communications of the ACM

ACM TechNews

Next-Gen Flexible Robots Move and Heal Like Us


A muscle-like electrical actuator.

University of Colorado, Boulder researchers are developing next-generation robots using devices that can mimic the expansion and contraction of natural muscles, self-sense their movements, and self-heal from electrical damage.

Credit: Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado Boulder

Researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder are developing next-generation robots from soft materials that react to applied voltage with a wide range of motions.

The devices can mimic the expansion and contraction of natural muscles, self-sense their movements, and self-heal from electrical damage.

The researchers note the robots' hydraulically amplified self-healing electrostatic (HASEL) actuators are a vast improvement over the bulky, rigid pistons and motors of conventional robots, and their versatility could be used for artificial muscles in human-like robots or next-generation prosthetic limbs.

The team has developed several different designs of HASEL actuators, drawing inspiration from biological muscles.

One design consists of a donut-shaped elastomer shell filled with an electrically insulating liquid, and when voltage is applied the liquid is displaced and drives shape change of the soft shell.

Another HASEL design uses layers of highly stretchable ionic conductors that sandwich a layer of liquid, which expands and contracts linearly upon electrical activation.

From CU-Boulder News Center
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