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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Pump powers mushy robots, makes cocktails

The most well liked drink of the summer time would be the SEAS-colada. This is what it’s essential to make it: gin, pineapple juice, coconut milk and a dielectric elastomer actuator-based mushy peristaltic pump. Sadly, the final part can solely be discovered within the lab of Robert Wooden, the Harry Lewis and Marlyn McGrath Professor of Engineering and Utilized Sciences on the Harvard John A. Paulson Faculty of Engineering and Utilized Sciences.

At the least, for now.

Wooden and his crew designed the pump to resolve a serious problem in mushy robotics — the right way to substitute historically cumbersome and inflexible energy elements with mushy alternate options.

Over the previous a number of years, Wooden’s Microrobotics Lab at SEAS has been growing mushy analogues of historically inflexible robotic elements, together with valves and sensors. In fluid-driven robotic techniques, pumps management the strain or circulate of the liquid that powers the robotic’s motion. Most pumps accessible at the moment for mushy robotics are both too giant and inflexible to suit onboard, not highly effective sufficient for actuation or solely work with particular fluids.

Wooden’s crew developed a compact, mushy pump with adjustable strain circulate versatile sufficient to pump a wide range of fluids with various viscosity, together with gin, juice, and coconut milk, and highly effective sufficient to energy mushy haptic units and a mushy robotic finger.

The pump’s dimension, energy and flexibility opens up a spread of potentialities for mushy robots in a wide range of purposes, together with meals dealing with, manufacturing, and biomedical therapeutics.

The analysis was revealed not too long ago in Science Robotics.

Peristaltic pumps are extensively utilized in trade. These easy machines use motors to compress a versatile tube, making a strain differential that forces liquid via the tube. Some of these pumps are particularly helpful in biomedical purposes as a result of the fluid does not contact any part of the pump itself.

“Peristaltic pumps can ship liquids with a variety of viscosities, particle-liquid suspensions, or fluids comparable to blood, that are difficult for different varieties of pumps,” stated first writer Siyi Xu, a former graduate scholar at SEAS and present postdoctoral fellow in Wooden’s lab.

Constructing off earlier analysis, Xu and the crew designed electrically powered dielectric elastomer actuators (DEAs) to behave because the pump’s motor and rollers. These mushy actuators have ultra-high energy density, are light-weight, and may run for tons of of 1000’s of cycles.

The crew designed an array of DEAs that coordinate with one another, compressing a millimeter-sized channel in a programmed sequence to provide strain waves.

The result’s a centimeter-sized pump sufficiently small to suit on board a small mushy robotic and highly effective sufficient to actuate motion, with controllable strain, circulate price, and circulate route.

“We additionally demonstrated that we may actively tune the output from steady circulate to droplets by various the enter voltages and the outlet resistance, in our case the diameter of the blunt needle,” stated Xu. “This functionality might enable the pump to be helpful not just for robotics but in addition for microfluidic purposes.”

“Nearly all of mushy robots comprise inflexible elements someplace alongside their drivetrain,” stated Wooden. “This subject began as an effort to swap out a type of key items, the pump, with a mushy various. However alongside the way in which we realized that compact mushy pumps might have far better utility, for instance in biomedical settings for drug supply or implantable therapeutic units.”

The analysis was co-authored by Cara M. Nunez and Mohammad Souri. It was supported by the Nationwide Science Basis underneath grant CMMI-1830291.

Video: https://youtu.be/knC9HJ6K-sU

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