Bioinspired Soft Machines
Abstract: Soft machines—machines fabricated using soft elastomers (modulus < 1 MPa, > 5x stretchable) and flexible reinforcing sheets—are rapidly increasing in functionality. Soft machines represent a change in the way we think about the traditional fabrication methods, and the materials, used in the manufacture of electromechanical tools and devices. Soft machines: i) are inherently compliant, ii) exhibit non-linear dynamics, and iii)can be manufactured at low-cost. A simple, pneumatically-powered actuator composed of only soft-elastomers can perform, with no computation in the loop, the function of a complex arrangement of mechanical components, electric motors, and feedback from sensors. This talk describes the use of soft-lithography as a simple method to fabricate robots. These soft robots have sophisticated capabilities: a gripper can manipulate delicate and irregularly shaped objects; a quadrupedal robot can walk to, and squeeze beneath, a gap in an obstacle; a robot can display, or camouflage, itself using an attached microfluidic layer. This talk will also introduce new methods of rapid motion by soft robots, and finally will discuss future directions, opportunities, and potential applications.
Biography: Dr Adam A. Stokes is a Lecturer (Asst. Prof.) in the Institute for Micro and Nano Systems (IMNS) at The University of Edinburgh; where he teaches Bioelectronics and Digital Systems Design. He holds degrees in engineering, biomedical science, and chemistry. Before joining the faculty at Edinburgh he was a Fellow in the George M. Whitesides group at Harvard University. His research interests include: soft robotics (PNAS 108(51): 20400, ‘11; Science 337, 828, ‘12), physical chemistry, electrical engineering, materials science, nanotechnology, optics, proteomics (Anal. Chem. 82(5), 1897, ‘10), and cell biology. He is the PI of the soft systems group and founder of the University of Edinburgh FabLab.