Research results carried in the Nature academic journal

An international research group comprising Shibaura Institute of Technology, the University of Electro-Communications, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne has succeeded in developing stretchable small-sized pumps driven by electricity. These elastic, light (about 1 gram) and quiet pumps are made with epoch-making technologies, which will replace the hard, bulky and noisy conventional pumps. The newly developed pumps are expected to play a major role in making robots that are compatible to human lifestyles, such as autonomous soft robots that are not connected to a large pump, light powered exoskeletons, and smart clothes.

*The article describing the results of the research was published in the online edition of the Nature academic journal on August 14.

Key points:

- Development of stretchable small pumps (Flexible, light, and quiet pumps having an output equivalent to that of conventional pumps)
- Expected to help realize the production of soft robots, light powered exoskeletons, and smart clothes
- Capable of moving liquid inside the pump duct with electricity

 

Outlines of the research

The newly developed pumps are entirely made of soft materials, such as silicone elastomer. They each have a duct that measures 1 millimeter in diameter, inside which there is a row of electrodes that is filled with dialectic liquid. When voltage is applied to the dialectic liquid, electrons are released from an electrode, giving electrical charges to molecules comprising the dialectic liquid. Then, the electrically charged molecules are pulled by other electrodes, thereby moving the liquid inside the duct. This mechanism made it possible to produce a soft pump driven by electricity.

 

Title of the article: Stretchable pumps for soft machines

 

Research funding

This research has been conducted with financial support from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science under the grant-in-aid for scientific research program in the new academic field of soft robotics research. Additionally, it has received funds from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology under the Leading Initiative for Excellent Young Researchers, and the Japanese TOBITATE! Young Ambassador Program.

 

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