Cutting the Cord – Integrated Sensing, Actuation, and Robust Electronics for Soft Robot Autonomy by Carmel Majidi

Speaker: Carmel Majidi
Affiliation: Carnegie Mellon

Abstract: Progress in soft lithography, additive manufacturing, biohybrid engineering, and soft materials integration have lead to extraordinary new classes of soft-matter sensors, circuits, and actuators. These materials represent the building blocks of soft machines, robots, and bio-inspired systems that will exhibit the rich multifunctional versatility and robust adaptability of soft biological organisms. While there are key challenges in materials and manufacturing that remain to be addressed, further progress in soft robotics now depends on accomplishing a new set of goals: systems-level materials integration, untethered functionality, and robot autonomy. In this talk, I will focus on this latter set of challenges and the new fundamental questions that emerge when exploring the interface of soft multifunctional materials, rigid microelectronics, and robot mobility. In particular, I will report efforts by my lab to create an untethered soft robot capable of walking in a variety of environments, including rocky terrain and confined spaces. I’ll also present recent work on mechanically robust and self-healing electronics that can withstand extreme loading and damage. When used as internal circuit wiring within an electrically-powered soft robot, such materials enable autonomous response to tearing, puncturing, or material removal – damage modes that would be catastrophic for most other soft-bodied robots. I will close by highlighting ongoing efforts to create new computational tools for modeling the motion and surface interactions of limbed soft robots. Based on continuum mechanics, finite element analysis, and emerging techniques in computer graphics, these tools represent another critical requirement for soft robot autonomy by potentially enabling on-board computational intelligence and adaptive decision making.

Bio: Carmel Majidi is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, where he leads the Soft Machines Lab. Prior to arriving at CMU, Prof. Majidi had postdoctoral appointments at Harvard University and the Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials. Prof. Majidi received his doctoral training at UC Berkeley, where he worked with Profs. Ronald Fearing and Bob Full to examine natural gecko adhesion and develop a gecko-inspired shear-activated adhesive. Currently, his research is focused on the development of new classes of soft multifunctional materials for stretchable electronics, sensing, and muscle-like actuation. The purpose of these novel materials is to enable wearable computing and bio-inspired robotics that intrinsically match the mechanical properties of natural biological tissue. Prof. Majidi has received Young Investigator awards from DARPA, ONR, AFOSR, and NASA all for work related to soft-matter robotics and engineering.

Date(s) - Jan 31, 2018
11:00 am - 12:00 pm

37-124 Engineering IV
420 Westwood Plaza Los Angeles CA