“Soft Multifunctional Materials for Wearable Robotics/Devices” by Dr. Wanliang Shan (Soft Machines Lab, Mechanical Engineering Department at the Carnegie Melon University, Pittsburgh, PA)
Abstract: Conventional robots are made of rigid components that do not match the elastic compliance of our natural skin and tissue. While appropriate for industrial applications in a laboratory setting, they are not typically designed for human interaction. As more and more soft robots or co-robots enter our workplaces, hospitals and homes, we need to eliminate the mechanical mismatch by replacing conventional rigid materials with new soft materials with tunable functionalities, especially tunable elastic rigidity. Using onboard heating approach, we have developed rigidity tunable composites made of commercial soft elastomers, low melting point alloys and shape memory polymers. We focus on not only the design but also the scalable fabrication methods involved in developing these rigidity tunable composites. Numerical modeling is then conducted to explore the potential and limitation of this design approach based on onboard Joule heating. Inspired by the modeling results, we have also come up with new simplified geometrical design of the composite and invented new materials that can enable such simplified design. We will also discuss the implications of these experimental and modeling discoveries for design of better wearable robots.
Bio: Dr. Wanliang Shan is currently a postdoctoral research fellow in Soft Machines Lab at the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. Dr. Shan received his B.S. in Thermal Science and Energy Engineering from University of Science and Technology of China in 2006, and his Ph.D. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University in 2012, respectively. His research is in the general area of mechanics and materials, with emphasis on small, soft and multifunctional structures and materials. Recently he has been working on soft multifunctional materials for soft electronics, mechanical instability of thin rods & plates, and bio-inspired design.