Soft Robotics for Chemists
by Lauren Hartle
The paper introduces the concept of soft robotics to an audience of chemists, discussing promising applications of this technology as well as describing a particular set of prototypes of "soft robots" fabricated by the Whitesides group.
According to Whitesides, et al:
"The robotics community defines "soft robots" as: 1) machines made of soft—often elastomeric—materials, or 2) machines composed of multiple hard-robotic actuators that operate in concert, and demonstrate soft-robot-like properties..."
The researchers used a series of air channels and chambers that acquire curvature when filled with air. Three methods of producing curvature using air pressure were demonstrated, and "starfish" grippers were fabricated and used to pick up various objects, including an egg and an anesthetized mouse. Applications of the "grippers" include manipulation of delicate) (where the highly compliant gripper surface is appropriate) and irregularly-shaped objects (where the ability of the grippers to bend to accommodate different shapes is crucial)