MEMS SEMINAR: Functionality through multistability: from soft robots to deployable structures

Nov 30

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Wednesday, November 30, 2022 – 12:00PM to 1:00PM


Katia Bertoldi (Harvard)

Inflating a rubber balloon leads to a dramatic shape change: a property that is exploited in the
design of soft robots and deployable structures. On the one hand, fluid-driven actuators capable
o.f complex motion can power highly adaptive and inherently safe soft robots. On the other hand,
inflation can be used to transform seemingly flat shapes into shelters, field hospitals, and space
modules. In both cases, just like the simple balloon, only one input is required to achieve the
desired deformation. This simplicity, however, brings strict limitations: soft actuators are often
r.estricted to unimodal and slow deformation and deployable structures need a continuous supply
of pressure to remain upright. Here, we embrace multistability as a paradigm to improve the
functionality of inflatable systems. In the first part of this seminar, I exploit snapping instabilities
i.n spherical shells to decouple the input signal from the output deformation in soft actuators-a
functionality that can be utilized to design a soft machine capable of jumping. In the second part
of the seminar, I draw inspiration from origami to design multistable and inflatable structures at
the meter scale. Because these deployable systems are multistable, pressure can be disconnected
when they are fully expanded, making them ideal candidates for applications such as emergency
sheltering and deep space exploration. Together, these two projects highlight the potential of
multistability in enabling the design and fabrication across various scales of multi-form, multi-functional, and multi-purpose materials and structures