For almost two decades, dielectric elastomer actuators (DEA) have been the subject of intense research in material science. The potential capability of those actuators is emphasized by their common name “artificial muscles”. Biological archetypes, like skeletal muscles of mammals, are exceeded pertaining to energy density and efficiency. This makes DEA promising actuators for the development of a new generation of robotic solutions with a broad spectrum of possible applications, which may vary from intrinsically safe service robots to highly dynamical energy autarkic mobile kinematics or bionic prostheses.
The goal of this research is project to facilitate the transition from fundamental research to the qualification of DEA as regular control elements in complex and compliant robot kinematics. To carry out this transition, four major research tasks are identified to actualize the adaptability of DEA within basic methodologies of robotics. The key research task are automated production processes for stacked DEA, lightweight power electronics, modelling and simulation (this part is conducted by the chair for applied dynamics), and the development of a new set of energy efficient control hardware for DEA.
The research is embedded within the framework of the Bavarian biomimetic initiative “Bionicum-Forschung” – www.bionicum.de.