Although in recent times, soft robots have mostly been talked about due to their ease of adaptability and safety in use. They have continuously utilized heavy, noisy and large pumps for their movements. But after consistent research, they are now lightweight, very simple with reduced noise and enhanced self-sensing which can likely be used in wearables and touch displays.
Soft robots are made of materials with high viscosity and elasticity so that they can easily absorb shocks. They are also designed to function in rigorous environments yet are safe for human use. However, these soft robots depend on fluidic systems that use heavy and noisy pumps.
According to science daily, a team of researchers at the Shibaura Institute of Technology (SIT), Japan introduced an “electrohydrodynamic” (EHD) pump that uses electrochemical reactions to drive pumps. Now, in a recent study, they have gone one step further, designing a “self-sensing” EHD pump that uses an electrochemical dual transducer (ECDT) to sense the fluid flow, which, in turn, activates electrochemical reactions and increases current. “Self-sensing technology has attracted much attention recently for compactifying soft robots. Incorporating sensors in soft robots enhances their multifunctionality, but often makes for complex wiring and bloating. Self-sensing actuation technology can help solve this issue and allow for miniaturization of soft robots,” explains the team lead. In addition, the researchers tested its performance by using it to drive a suction cup to detect, grab, and release objects.
The advantages of the ECDT are that it does not require any special equipment or complex processing for its fabrication. Moreover, it is small, lightweight, and demonstrates a wide range of sensitivity. However, the ECDT is more than just about soft robot miniaturization. It is a step towards a future in which humans and robots would not simply co-exist but their interaction would become fluid and natural. An exciting prospect to entertain, for sure!