A Graphene‐Mica‐Based Photo‐Thermal Actuator for Small‐Scale Soft Robots

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Abstract

Small-scale soft robots demonstrate intricate life-like behavior and allow navigation through arduous terrains and confined spaces. However, the primary challenges in soft robotics are 1) creating actuators capable of quick, reversible 22D-to-3D shape morphing with adjustable stiffness, 2) improving actuation force and robustness for wider applications, and 3) designing holistic systems for untethered manipulation and flexible multimodality in practical scenarios. Here, mechanically compliant paper-like robots are presented with multiple functionalities. The robots are based on photothermally activated polymer bimorph actuators that incorporate graphene for the photo-thermal conversion of energy and muscovite mica, with its high Young's modulus, providing the required stiffness. Conversion of light into heat leads to thermal expansion and bending of the stress-mismatched structures. The actuators are designed on the basis of a modified Timoshenko model, and numerical simulations are employed to evaluate their actuation performance. The membranes can be utilized for light-driven programmable shape-morphing. Localized control allows the implementation of active hinges at arbitrary positions within the membrane. Integrated into small-scale soft robots in mass production, the membrane facilitates locomotion, rolling, and flipping of the robots. Further, grasping and kicking mechanisms are demonstrated, highlighting the potential of such actuators for future applications.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2311001
JournalSmall
Early online date11 Feb 2024
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Feb 2024

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