DEVELOPMENT OF A NANOCOMPOSITE SENSOR AND ELECTRONIC SYSTEM FOR MONITORING OF LOCOMOTION OF A SOFT EARTHWORM ROBOT
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The ability to detect external stimuli and perceive the surrounding areas represents a key feature of modern soft robotic systems, used for exploration of harsh environments. Although people have developed various types of biomimetic soft robots, no integratedsensor system is available to provide feedback locomotion. Here, a stretchable nanocomposite strain sensor with integrated wireless electronics to provide a feedbackloop locomotion of a soft robotic earthworm is presented. The ultrathin and soft strain sensor based on a carbon nanomaterial and a low-modulus silicone elastomer allows for a seamless integration with the body of the soft robot, accommodating large strains derived from bending, stretching, and physical interactions with obstacles. A scalable, costeffective, screen-printing method manufactures an array of strain sensors that are conductive and stretchable over 100% with a gauge factor over 38. An array of stretchable nanomembrane interconnectors enables a reliable connection between soft strain sensors and wireless electronics, while tolerating the robot’s multi-modal movements. A set of computational and experimental studies of soft materials, stretchable mechanics, and hybrid packaging provides key design factors for a reliable, nanocomposite sensor system. The miniaturized wireless circuit, embedded in the robot joint, offers a real-time monitoring of strain changes on the earthworm skin. Collectively, the soft sensor system shows a great potential to be integrated with other flexible, stretchable electronics for applications in soft robotics, wearable devices, and human-machine interfaces.