A tiny, flexible lightweight pump could help usher in the next generation of soft robotics, exoskeletons and even smart clothing.
The pump was created by a team at EPFL in collaboration with the Shibaura Institute of Technology to offer an alternative to the hard and bulky pumps currently used in soft robotics. In contrast, the newly designed pump is entirely soft, including the electrodes, and weighs only one gram. Inspired by the mechanism used to circulate cooling liquids through supercomputers, the pump is filled with a dielectric fluid that coats the printed electrodes within a center channel. When a voltage is applied to the electrodes, the resulting molecular charge will cause the liquid to flow through the pump.
According to researcher Herbert Shea, “If we want to actuate larger robots, we connect several pumps together. We consider this a paradigm shift in the field of soft robotics.”