Research

My research focuses on investigating the materials and manufacture of soft robotic components. I harness the functional properties of materials (conductivity, thermal sensitivity, anisotropy) by binding them into a physical design that leverages those properties, creating devices that have novel functions. Once a given design and manufacturing method has been proven, I then explore how to manufacture those devices repeatably and in a scalable manner. Finally, I integrate various individual components into full robotic systems.

 
 
 
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Soft sensors

They stretch! They measure! Most importantly, they are reliable!

These sensors are constructed as stretchable parallel-plate conductors using an expanded graphite & silicone composite for the conductive layers, and pure silicone for the dielectric layers. Because of their reliability, the sensors have been used in a wide variety of projects in my lab and by collaborators. Key takeaways from rigorous characterization: sensor performance is agnostic to variations in manufacturing, the sensors have a linear response to strain with no hysteresis, they still operate after undergoing 100,000 cycles of strain to 50%, and they still function after being stretched to 300% strain.

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Variable stiffness materials

In order to be useful, soft robots can’t always be ‘soft’. Variable stiffness materials are useful for switching from a soft, deformable state to a stiff, load-bearing state, allowing structures to be reconfigured on-the-fly.

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Robotic fabrics

What are robotic fabrics? Think Iron Man but instead of that metal suit, it’s your clothes that augment strength and provide support. That’s the idea behind robotic fabric (and more broadly, robotic skins): planar robots that can wrap around soft objects (like human limbs), and impart motion on them.

Click here for more on robotic fabrics.