Inch by inch, this machine is leading soft robotics to a more energy efficient future

Written by
Scott Lyon
Scott Lyon, Chemical and Biological Engineering
Nov. 16, 2023

Princeton researchers have developed a flexible, lightweight and energy efficient soft robot that moves without the use of any legs or rotary parts. Instead, the device uses actuators that convert electrical energy into vibrations that allow it to wiggle from point to point using only a single watt. 

This robot makes use of the piezoelectric effect, which transfers electrical energy into mechanical energy that can power the robot with carefully timed pulses. One pulse causes the flexible body to bend one way; a different pulse causes it to bend the other way. Called eViper, this new wiggling machine could lead the way on making robotic systems more energy efficient for a future with exploding demand. 

“Future robotic systems need high energy efficiency,” said Minjie Chen, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and one of the project’s principal investigators. “The eViper platform enables us to explore electrical, mechanical and power co-design to maximize the energy efficiency.”

The researchers findings were presented in a paper presented at the 2023 IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS). 

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