Programmable soft robotics based on nano-textured thermo-responsive actuators

Dong Jin Kang, Seongpil An, Alexander L. Yarin, Sushant Anand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Soft robotic systems are increasingly emerging as robust alternatives to conventional robotics. Here, we demonstrate the development of programmable soft actuators based on volume expansion/retraction accompanying liquid-vapor phase transition of a phase-change material confined within an elastomer matrix. The combination of a soft matrix (a silicone-based elastomer) and an embedded ethanol-impregnated polyacrylonitrile nanofiber (PAN NF) mat makes it possible to form a sealed compound device that can be operated by changing the actuator temperature above/below the boiling point of ethanol. The thermo-responsive actuators based on this principle demonstrate excellent bending ability at a sufficiently high temperature (>90 °C)-comparable with compressed air-based soft actuators. The actuator using the mechanism presented here is easy to manufacture and automate and is recyclable. Finally, the actuation mechanism can be incorporated into a wide variety of shapes and configurations, making it possible to obtain tunable and programmable soft robots that could have a wide variety of industrial applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2065-2070
Number of pages6
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jan 28

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)


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