UserMichaelPetralia

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Revision as of 22:41, 6 January 2009 by MichaelPetralia (Talk | contribs) (Final Project)

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About me

I am working on soft mechanical systems at the Harvard Microrobotics Laboratory. My research focuses on creating changes in stiffness and damping properties, macroscopic motion, and force generation using 'soft' materials. The buzz word is artificial muscles, but the scope is much broader. I'm thinking about how we can create compliant devices that out perform the typical 'hard' systems engineers usually design.

Fun facts on soft matter

Typically, we think of changing the degree/type of cross-linking in order to change the mechanical properties of a polymer. Lengthening of a polymer is accomplished by aligning the polymer chains. It seems that there are polymers where the monomer-monomer interactions are not covalently bonded and thus the lengths of the polymer chains themselves can change.

“. . . in other long-chain objects the subunits are joined not by covalent bonds, but by physical ones. 
Examples of this are the giant worm-like micelles formed in some amphiphile solutions, and the long 
chains of compact protein molecules which constitute, for example, actin filaments. Such objects are 
sometimes called ‘living polymers’; their characteristic is that they can change their length in response 
to changes in the environment. This contrasts with the more usual covalently linked polymers, in which 
the length of the molecules, or the distribution of lengths, is fixed during the polymerization process.”
page 73, Jones Soft Condensed Matter


Final Project

One 'soft' actuation technology I'm looking into are polymer gels. There is some criticism in the soft robotics community about the usefulness of polymer gels for artificial muscle type technology. A recent review article by Madden [1] intentionally omitted their consideration. The response time is typically slow (anywhere from seconds to weeks) and they are relatively weak (QUANTIFY). I believe they still have merit because of the breadth of stimuli that can be used to activate them (light, heat, pH, electric and magnetic fields, ionic strength) and the control we have over their swelling properties. The change in physical shape of polymer gels So I picked up de Gennes classic Scaling Concepts in Polymer Physics to see if I could learn a few things. I decided that for my final project, I'd do a critical reading of


Jones tells us [2]


References:

[1] Madden, J.D.W. et al., IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering 29, 706 (2004)

[2]Jones, R.A.L., Soft Condensed Matter (2002)


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