CNT-based sensor arrays for local strain measurements in soft pneumatic actuators

  • Thassyo Pinto
  • Le Cai
  • Chuan Wang
  • Xiaobo Tan
Regular Paper


Soft robotics is a recent trend in engineering that seeks to create machines that are soft, compliant, and capable of withstanding damage, wear and high stress. Soft pneumatic actuators (SPAs) are a key element of soft robots, and their elastomeric substrate enables generation of sophisticated motion with simple controls. Although several methods for fabrication, material selection, and structure design have been investigated for the construction of SPAs, limited attention has been paid to the integration of distributed sensors for performing localized measurement. Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are molecular-scale tubes of carbon atoms with remarkable mechanical and electronic properties, showing potential application in sensing devices. In this paper, we present the design, fabrication, and testing of a novel type of CNT-based sensor array combined with silver nanowires for measuring localized strain along the bottom layer of a SPA. Simulation and experimentation have been performed in order to analyze the soft actuator deformation during bending. The results demonstrate the promise of the proposed SPA with integrated strain sensing, which lays groundwork for a myriad of applications in grasping, manipulation, and bio-inspired locomotion.


Soft robotics Strain sensor array CNT Integrated sensing 



This work was supported by Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES) under the Science Without Borders program (BEX-13404-13-0) and National Science Foundation (DBI-0939454 and ECCS-1549888).

Supplementary material

41315_2017_18_MOESM1_ESM.mp4 (11.9 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (MP4 12184 kb)


  1. Amend, J.R., Brown, E., Rodenberg, N., Jaeger, H.M., Lipson, H.: A positive pressure universal gripper based on the jamming of granular material. IEEE Trans. Robot. 28(2), 341–350 (2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bilodeau, R.A., White, E.L., Kramer, R.K.: Monolithic fabrication of sensors and actuators in a soft robotic gripper. In: Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), 2015 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on, Hamburg, Germany (2015)Google Scholar
  3. Breger, J.C., Yoon, C., Xiao, R., Kwag, H.R., Wang, M.O., Fisher, J.P., Nguyen, T.D., Gracias, D.H.: Self-folding thermo-magnetically responsive soft microgrippers. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces. 7(5), 3398–3405 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brown, E., Rodenberg, N., Amend, J., Mozeika, A., Steltz, E., Zakin, M.R., Lipson, H., Jaeger, H.M.: Universal robotic gripper based on the jamming of granular material. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 107(44), 18809–18814 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cianchetti, M., Ranzani, T., Gerboni, G., Nanayakkara, T., Althoefer, K., Dasgupta, P., Menciassi, A.: Soft robotics technologies to address shortcomings in today’s minimally invasive surgery: the STIFF-FLOP approach. Soft Robot. 1(2), 122–131 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Duriez, C.: Control of elastic soft robots based on real-time finite element method. In: Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2013 IEEE International Conference on, Karlsruhe, Germany (2013)Google Scholar
  7. Elsayed, Y., Vincensi, A., Lekakou, C., Geng, T., Saaj, C.M., Ranzani, T., Cianchetti, M., Menciassi, A.: Finite element analysis and design optimization of a pneumatically actuating silicone module for robotic surgery applications. Soft Robot. 1(4), 255–262 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ilievski, F., Mazzeo, A.D., Shepherd, R., Chen, X., Whitesides, G.M.: Soft robotics for chemists. Angew. Chem. 123(8), 1930–1935 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Laschi, C., Cianchetti, M., Mazzolai, B., Margheri, L., Follador, M., Dario, P.: Soft robot arm inspired by the octopus. Adv. Robot. 26(7), 709–727 (2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Marchese, A.D., Komorowski, K., Onal, C.D., Rus, D.: Design and control of a soft and continuously deformable 2d robotic manipulation system. In: Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2014 IEEE International Conference on, Hong Kong, China (2014)Google Scholar
  11. Martinez, R.V., Branch, J.L., Fish, C.R., Jin, L., Shepherd, R.F., Nunes, R., Suo, Z., Whitesides, G.M.: Robotic tentacles with three-dimensional mobility based on flexible elastomers. Adv. Mater. 25(2), 205–212 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. McMahan, W., Chitrakaran, V., Csencsits, M., Dawson, D., Walker, I.D., Jones, B.A., Pritts, M., Dienno, D., Grissom, M., Rahn, C.D.: Field trials and testing of the OctArm continuum manipulator. In: Robotics and Automation, 2006. ICRA 2006. Proceedings 2006 IEEE International Conference on, Orlando, Florida (2006)Google Scholar
  13. Morrow, J., Shin, H.-S., Phillips-Grafflin, C., Jang, S.-H., Torrey, J., Larkins, R., Dang, S., Park, Y.-L., Berenson, D.: Improving soft pneumatic actuator fingers through integration of soft sensors, position and force control, and rigid fingernails. In: Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2016 IEEE International Conference on, Stockholm, Sweden (2016)Google Scholar
  14. Mosadegh, B., Polygerinos, P., Keplinger, C., Wennstedt, S., Shepherd, R.F., Gupta, U., Shim, J., Bertoldi, K., Walsh, C.J., Whitesides, G.M.: Pneumatic networks for soft robotics that actuate rapidly. Adv. Func. Mater. 24(15), 2163–2170 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Otake, M., Kagami, Y., Inaba, M., Inoue, H.: Motion design of a starfish-shaped gel robot made of electro-active polymer gel. Robot. Auton. Syst. 40(2), 185–191 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ozel, S., Skorina, E.H., Luo, M., Tao, W., Chen, F., Pan, Y., Onal, C.D.: A composite soft bending actuation module with integrated curvature sensing. In: Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2016 IEEE International Conference on, Stockholm, Sweden (2016)Google Scholar
  17. Park, Y.L., Majidi, C., Kramer, R., Bérard, P., Wood, R.J.: Hyperelastic pressure sensing with a liquid-embedded elastomer. J. Micromech. Microeng. 20(12), 125029 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Park, Y.L., Wood, R.J.: Smart pneumatic artificial muscle actuator with embedded microfluidic sensing. In: SENSORS, 2013 IEEE, Baltimore, Maryland (2013)Google Scholar
  19. Peele, B.N., Wallin, T.J., Zhao, H., Shepherd, R.F.: 3D printing antagonistic systems of artificial muscle using projection stereolithography. Bioinspir. Biomim. 10(5), 055003 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Polygerinos, P., Galloway, K.C., Savage, E., Herman, M., O’Donnell, K., Walsh, C.J.: Soft robotic glove for hand rehabilitation and task specific training. In: Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2015 IEEE International Conference on, Seattle, Washington (2015)Google Scholar
  21. Rogers, J.A., Someya, T., Huang, Y.: Materials and mechanics for stretchable electronics. Science 327(5973), 1603–1607 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Sareh, S., Jiang, A., Faragasso, A., Noh, Y., Nanayakkara, T., Dasgupta, P., Seneviratne, L.D., Wurdemann H.A., Althoefer, K.: Bio-inspired tactile sensor sleeve for surgical soft manipulators. In: Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2014 IEEE International Conference on, Hong Kong, China (2014)Google Scholar
  23. Shepherd, R.F., Ilievski, F., Choi, W., Morin, S.A., Stokes, A.A., Mazzeo, A.D., Chen, X., Wang, M., Whitesides, G.M.: Multigait soft robot. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 108(51), 20400–20403 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Suh, C., Margarit, J.C., Song, Y.S., Paik, J.: Soft pneumatic actuator skin with embedded sensors. In Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2014), 2014 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on, Chicago, Illinois (2014)Google Scholar
  25. Trivedi, D., Dienno, D., Rahn, C.D.: Optimal, model-based design of soft robotic manipulators. J. Mech. Des. 130(9), 091402 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Vikas, V., Grover, P., Trimmer, B.: Model-free control framework for multi-limb soft robots. In: Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), 2015 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on, Hamburg, Germany (2015)Google Scholar
  27. Wakimoto, S., Ogura, K., Suzumori, K., Nishioka, Y.: Miniature soft hand with curling rubber pneumatic actuators. In: Robotics and Automation, 2009. ICRA ‘09. IEEE International Conference on, Kobe, Japan (2009)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Singapore 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Electrical and Computer EngineeringMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

Personalised recommendations