The main objective of this proposal is the development of a soft actuator/sensor robotic system based on dielectric elastomer (DE) materials. Due to their intrinsic compliance and ability to work as actuators and sensors simultaneously (self-sensing), DEs appear as ideal candidates for the development of novel solutions for soft machines not achievable with standard transduction technologies. The proposed research work will be organized into two projects, which will be conducted in parallel by two groups from Systems Engineering/Material Science & Engineering at Saarland University, Saarbrücken.
The first group (Seelecke) will focus on hardware aspects for multi-degree of freedom actuation/sensing based on DE transducers, and will design, fabricate, and systematically validate concepts for innovative soft robotic systems. At the same time, the second group (Rizzello) will develop novel mathematical models, control concepts, and self-sensing algorithms suitable for soft DE robotic systems. The complementary expertise of the two groups will cover different aspects of DE-based soft robotics, ensuring the multidisciplinary approach needed for a successful concept development. In addition, the common location at Saarland University will ensure a close and synergistic collaboration for the entire project duration.