Biomechanics studies of live animal are limited in their ability to control for parameters such as their organic material properties, micro-nano surface structures, locomotors control etc. The robotics, fabrication and experimental fluid techniques allow us to simultaneously measure the kinematics, forces, cost of transport, wake flow of the robotic model. The experimental results derived from principal controllable parameters (material properties, locomotors control and micro-nano structures such as fish scale) can be interpreted to significantly broaden our understanding in biomechanics. In particular, we are interested in biomechanics of swimming of aquatic animals and implement underwater bio-robotics.
Multiple material soft robotics for adhesion
Remora (Echeneidae) have the remarkable capability to instantaneously “hitchhike” to multiple marine animals such as sharks, dolphins, and sea turtles. This amazing feature is made possible by the adhesion disc located dorsally on the Remora head. This disc is encircled by a flexible fleshy lip which provides a pliable seal when attaching to a substrate. The disc interior includes numerous consecutive rows of laminae, which can be erected or depressed by muscles. We use multiple measurement tools including Environmental Scanning Electronic Microscope (ESEM) and X-ray microtomography (Micro-CT), Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) and contact angle analysis to characterize the micro-nano scale morphological features of the disc, the elastic material properties of the fleshy lip. We also use high speed video camera to capture the Remora disc laminae movements during attachment and detachment behaviors. We implemented a multiple material bio-robotic model that has a soft suction lip and several consecutive rows of laminae that have controllable motions relevant to that of the live Remora. This prototype will be of significance of studying Remora adhesion, and may inspire biologically-based underwater adhesive devices in the future.
Soft robotics for grasping and manipulation
Soft Robotics is an innovative research field dedicated to the science and engineering of soft materials in machines. The soft robotics is a paradigm shift since robots are traditionally thought of as precise and fast, due in part to structural rigidity, high force/torque actuators, and a large variety of available sensors. Robots based on soft materials may not share these traits, however we believe that soft robots enable new opportunities for robotic application. Our fabrication methods for bio-robotics evolved to include a greater diversity of materials. The research in our lab mainly include: active soft materials (materials that embed electrical or mechanical functionality in materials that are inherently soft), soft-bodied robots, and programmable materials with tunable mechanical properties and appropriate control methods for locomotors control of soft robotics, therefore to meet requirements for industrial grasping, manipulation and interaction with human.