Monday, March 7, 2016 - 16:00
Event Speaker: 
Yigit Menguc (Mechanical Engineering)
Local Contact: 
Yun-Shik Lee

Incredible biological mechanisms have emerged through evolution, and can provide a wellspring of inspiration for engineers. One promising area emerging from biological inspiration is the design of devices and robots made of compliant materials, as part of a larger field of research in “soft robotics.” In this talk, the topics of designing soft, biologically inspired mechanisms will be presented in two case studies: controllable adhesives and soft wearable sensors. Additionally, the talk will cover the methods of fabricating soft devices through 3D printing, soft lithography, and laser micromachining. Surfaces covered in arrays of micro-fibers, inspired by the toes of a gecko, rely on compliance to repeatedly and controllably adhere to almost any surface while simultaneously shedding dirt. Sensors made of liquid metal encapsulated in rubber as soft as skin can track motion of the human body while naturally moving with its kinematics. However, these exciting soft mechanisms have certain challenges. The biological mechanisms that serve as a source of inspirations are made of materials that are vastly more compliant than the metal and plastic that engineers and roboticists normally use. To imitate and improve on nature’s design, we must create mechanisms with materials like fabric and rubber. It is difficult to characterize these hyperelastic, viscoelastic, and generally nonlinear materials, and it is difficult to integrate them into traditional fabrication techniques, but the development of such soft robotic devices promises to bring robots more and more into our daily lives.