Jumping Robot with a Tunable Suspension Based on Artificial Muscles

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Abstract

This paper describes the design and control of a suspension based on electroactive polymers for controlling the landing dynamics of a jumping robot. Tunable suspension elements can electrically change their stiffness up to a factor of 10 in less than 0.01 seconds. We discuss design parameters and performance relevant to bio-inspired systems and demonstrate the ability to operate in positive (actuator), neutral (spring-like), or negative (damping or braking) workloops. When applied to a single-legged robot, positive workloops allow sustained periodic hopping while negative workloops can be used to rapidly achieve equilibrium during a landing event, acting in a similar manner to muscle in jumping animals. Extended bio-inspired applications are discussed.