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Published Online: 1 December 2017

Soft Dielectric Elastomer Oscillators Driving Bioinspired Robots

Publication: Soft Robotics
Volume 4, Issue Number 4


Entirely soft robots with animal-like behavior and integrated artificial nervous systems will open up totally new perspectives and applications. To produce them, we must integrate control and actuation in the same soft structure. Soft actuators (e.g., pneumatic and hydraulic) exist but electronics are hard and stiff and remotely located. We present novel soft, electronics-free dielectric elastomer oscillators, which are able to drive bioinspired robots. As a demonstrator, we present a robot that mimics the crawling motion of the caterpillar, with an integrated artificial nervous system, soft actuators and without any conventional stiff electronic parts. Supplied with an external DC voltage, the robot autonomously generates all signals that are necessary to drive its dielectric elastomer actuators, and it translates an in-plane electromechanical oscillation into a crawling locomotion movement. Therefore, all functional and supporting parts are made of polymer materials and carbon. Besides the basic design of this first electronic-free, biomimetic robot, we present prospects to control the general behavior of such robots. The absence of conventional stiff electronics and the exclusive use of polymeric materials will provide a large step toward real animal-like robots, compliant human machine interfaces, and a new class of distributed, neuron-like internal control for robotic systems.

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Published In

cover image Soft Robotics
Soft Robotics
Volume 4Issue Number 4December 2017
Pages: 353 - 366
PubMed: 29251566


Published in print: December 2017
Published online: 1 December 2017
Published ahead of print: 21 June 2017


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E.-F. Markus Henke
Biomimetics Lab, Auckland Bioengineering Institute, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.
Institute of Solid State Electronics, TU Dresden, Dresden, Germany.
Samuel Schlatter
Microsystems for Space Technologies Laboratory, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland.
Iain A. Anderson
Biomimetics Lab, Auckland Bioengineering Institute, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.
StretchSense Ltd., Auckland, New Zealand.
The Department of Engineering Science, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.


Address correspondence to:E.-F. Markus HenkeBiomimetics LabAuckland Bioengineering InstituteThe University of Auckland70 Symonds StreetAuckland 1010New Zealand
E-mail: [email protected]
Iain A. AndersonBiomimetics LabAuckland Bioengineering InstituteThe University of Auckland70 Symonds StreetAuckland 1010New Zealand
E-mail: [email protected]

Author Disclosure Statement

No competing financial interests exist.

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