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

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgements

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).

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Correspondence to Thassyo Pinto.

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Pinto, T., Cai, L., Wang, C. et al. CNT-based sensor arrays for local strain measurements in soft pneumatic actuators. Int J Intell Robot Appl 1, 157–166 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41315-017-0018-6

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Keywords

  • Soft robotics
  • Strain sensor array
  • CNT
  • Integrated sensing