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Seminar: Cutting the Cord – Integrated Sensing, Actuation and Robust Electronics for Soft Robot Autonomy

Carmel Majidi, associate professor, Carnegie Mellon University
Friday, September 6, 2019, 11:30 am to 12:30 pm
Scott Laboratory
201 W 19th Ave
Columbus, OH 43210


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. This talk 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, the speaker will report efforts by his lab to create an untethered soft robot capable of walking in a variety of environments, including rocky terrain and confined spaces. He will 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. The talk 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.


About the speaker

Carmel Majidi is the Clarence H. Adamson Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, where he leads the Soft Machines Lab. Prior to arriving at CMU, Majidi held postdoctoral appointments at Harvard University and Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials. Majidi received his doctoral training at UC Berkeley, where he worked with 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. Majidi has received Young Investigator awards from DARPA, ONR, AFOSR and NASA all for work related to soft-matter robotics and engineering.


Hosted by Prof. Ruike Zhao.