Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Soft machines, or soft robotics, are emerging technologies bringing many exciting prospects for the coming future. Creating soft machines with biomimetic functions is of key importance for applications in bettering human life and creating more complex robotic systems. Various mechanisms have been adopted to mimic natural tactile sense, tough, muscular motion, and even artificial intelligence. Among these, developing a bio-mimetic system capable of self-healing and degradation that behaves like a muscular hydrostat is appealing for soft robotics. This thesis will mainly focus on developing both artificial skin and artificial muscles that can self-heal, be recycled, and function like biological tissue. To develop a biomimetic artificial skin, we adopted an imine-bonded polymer as the main component, and embedded silver nanoparticles as well as liquid metals to create conductive components. Our artificial skin is capable of re-healing and recycling, and can be mounted to a complex 3D surface without introducing damage and strains. Such artificial skin, at the same time, can sense pressure and temperature change, flow across the surface, and humidity change in the atmosphere. Recyclability enables this platform to not only serve as an artificial skin, but also for other electronics applications. The artificial muscles were also developed for this project based on a recently invented Liquid Crystal Elastomer, whose behavior is most similar to that of natural muscles. To achieve large actuation strains, a fast response, and small scale local controlling, a Liquid Metal was introduced for stimulating the artificial muscle. Over 100% linear contracting strain was realized based on such a combination, which is greater than that of natural muscles. Bending and twisting deformation were also realized easily on such system. To further demonstrate the advantages of our artificial muscle, we integrated it into other passive soft elastomers like Ecoflex to mimic the camouflage behavior of cephalopods.
Zou, Zhanan, "Bio-Mimetic Smart System Functioning Like Natural Skin and Muscle" (2019). Mechanical Engineering Graduate Theses & Dissertations. 193.