Soft Actuators


We are investigating new type of soft actuators by applying existing actuation principles that work with electrical and fluidic inputs.


Dielectric elastomer actuators (DEAs)


DEAs consist of an elastomer membrane sandwiched between two compliant electrodes (see figure on the right). When a high voltage is applied to the electrodes, the membrane shrinks in the thickness direction and expands in the planar direction due to the electrostatic attractive force generated between the electrodes. This deformation can be used as an electrically-controlled actuation for soft robots and stretchable devices. Robots based on DEAs are shown on this page.


Working principle of dielectric elastomer actuators (DEAs)


Fluidic elastomer actuators (FEAs)


Soft structures inflate in response to the input of fluids such as air and liquid, which can be exploited as an actuation principle. The actuator displayed on the right is made of gelatin, which deforms when pressurized by injecting air. The use of gelatin enables biodegradability, a function being able to return to the soil, in soft actuators. This also makes them edible.


Operation of soft gelatin actuators