Soft robotics is a relatively new subfield of robotics that deals with constructing robotic functions from compliant materials. Soft technologies and integrated soft systems can revolutionize the use of robotic devices, for instance in applications where elastic versatility and safe human/machine interactions are needed. It is predicted, and certainly has the potential, to lead to the development of radically new generations of machines. The examples are numerous. In the medical world, they will increasingly assist surgery, in-vivo therapeutic treatments or contribute to the rehabilitation of disabilities by exoskeletons. Soft robotic functions have the perspective to enhance the communication between man and machine or between machines mutually. We foresee that we can make materials that can feel, sense, behave and act as human skins, but with enhanced sensitivity and accuracy.
They can be used as stand-alone and autonomous devices, but also be applied as coating or integrated with electronics or even with biological material to perform functions not accessible otherwise. And as a long-term perspective one can foresee the development of evolutionary self-developing soft robotics following nature's approach to intelligent soft machines.Projects description
In our research team we develop responsive materials that address the advancing needs in specialized medicine, man-machine communication and miniaturized mechanics. Smart soft materials are in potential capable to fill in gaps in present technologies and to generate new, specialized functions making use of their ability to adapt their shape, to comply to confined and sensible spaces and to provide their functional duty on location.
A key aspect of our projects is to translate molecular effects to macroscopic phenomena which, in turn translate into (robotic) devices. Consequently, the approach to successfully develop new robotic functions adapted to their field of application must be multidisciplinary, containing all the aspects from materials design/development, photonics, electronics and mechanics. In the material, the various molecular functions are brought together, and the soft robot is given a body, which can be as simple as a thin film actuator or coating, but also be complex consisting of a composite of materials in an accurate three-dimensional shape. It brings organic and inorganic materials together in hybrid materials, built around soft electronics. More information can be found at www.danqingliu.nl