University of California, San Diego engineers have developed soft, tubular actuators with electrically driven movements for compact, portable, and multifunctional soft robots.
The actuators are composed of liquid-crystal elastomers that change shape, and move and contract in response to thermal or electric stimulation.
Sandwiched between the elastomer films are three heating wires, which are rolled into a tube, pre-stretched, and exposed to ultraviolet light. Applying electricity to one or two wires causes the tube to bend in the wires' direction, and a current passing through all three induces contraction.
The team used the actuators to assemble an untethered, battery-powered walking robot with four legs, and a soft gripper that grasps and picks up small objects with three actuators functioning like fingers.
From UC San Diego News Center
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