To prove the concept, the authors designed a soft self-actuating conveyor belt able to transport small objects at a speed of 0.28 mm/s. Since the active areas can be exploited as electromechanical actuators or as electrostatic gripper elements, or both simultaneously, the ElectroSkin robot can be driven in many different modes and future optimized designs could enable such robots to crawl up walls and across ceiling, explore difficult to reach environments including collapsed buildings.
The researchers also demonstrated an untethered ElectroSkin conveyor, based on a miniature microprocessor, a Li-Po battery, and two small and lightweight high-voltage amplifiers. Next they plan to integrate stretchable triboelectric nanogenerators to aim for self-powered ElectroSkin robots.
“ElectroSkin is an important step toward soft robots that can be easily transported, deployed and even worn. The combination of electrical artificial muscles and electrical gripping replicated the movements of animals like slugs and snails, and where they can go, so could our robots!”, commented Professor Rossiter.
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