The use of soft materials in robot development has emerged as a way to increase the adaptability of robots and their safe interaction with humans. Although soft robots will likely never achieve the precision of the more traditional ‘rigid’ robots, their inherent adaptivity pushes state-of-the-art developments towards new medical applications such as rehabilitation and diagnostic devices, exoskeletons for gait assistance, and in vivo assist devices. However, despite exciting developments, there are still major challenges in the development of soft robots. In particular, existing electronic control, intelligence and power of soft robots is too bulky to be embedded, and the power efficiency of soft robots is extremely low.
Here, you will study ways to replace the electronics currently needed to control soft robots by dedicated soft fluidic circuits that will control and power the soft robot. You will e.g. work on embedding smart fluidic circuits that contain soft fluidic sensors, and that harness nonlinear mechanics to allow for direct feedback with the environment. The ultimate aim of this research is to ‘cut the tethers’, and to use such fluidic circuits to have soft robots perform tasks autonomously.
The Soft Robotic Matter group focuses on the design, fabrication and fundamental understanding of materials that are capable of autonomously adapting to – and even harnessing – variations in their environment. We aim to uncover principles that help us understand how non-linearity and feedback can result in the emergence of complex – but useful – behavior in soft actuated systems. To this end, the Soft Robotic Matter group uses a combination of computational and experimental tools. This line of research combines concepts from soft robotics and architected materials, providing new and exciting opportunities in the design of compliant structures and devices with highly non-linear behavior. We provide a highly collaborative and supportive environment, both within the group and institute, and through national and international collaborations.
We welcome applications from highly motivated candidates with a strong background in preferably soft robotics or mechanical metamaterials, while other backgrounds are also considered given sufficient motivation. We are looking for candidates with a go-getter mentality, that have a strong experimental background, in combination with a sound appetite for numerical/theoretical work. You need to meet the requirements for a doctors-degree and must have research experience in a non-Dutch academic environment.