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Cactus-inspired design principles for soft robotics based on 3D printed hydrogel-elastomer systems

Abstract : Plants have evolved many capabilities to anchor, position their stems and leaves favourably, and adapt themselves to different environmental conditions by virtue of growing. Selenicereus setaceus is a cactus and is an impressive example of a climbing plant found mostly in the Atlantic forest formations of southern Brazil. This cactus displays striking changes in stem geometry along different stages of growth: older parts are circular while the younger parts are star-like in shape. Such a transformation in shape optimizes its flexural rigidity and allows the cactus to search in three-dimensionally complex environments. Its organisation offers novel schemes for the design of plant-inspired soft robotic systems. In this paper, we have created multi-material systems for soft robotics that display controlled movements as well as mimicking the cactus stem geometries from star-like to circular. The unique star-shaped geometry is 3D printed using a soft elastomer and hydrogel is used as an actuating component. Through anisotropic swelling, the hydrogel-elastomer system adjusts its configuration and shows a controlled movement. Furthermore, the isotropic swelling of the hydrogel of the artificial cactus multi-material system result in the change in shape from star-like to circular as the cactus does naturally in the tropical forest.
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https://hal.inrae.fr/hal-03173025
Contributor : Yannick Brohard <>
Submitted on : Thursday, March 18, 2021 - 11:08:36 AM
Last modification on : Thursday, April 15, 2021 - 2:56:40 PM

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Anil Bastola, Nadia Rodriguez, Marc Behl, Patricia Soffiatti, Nick P. Rowe, et al.. Cactus-inspired design principles for soft robotics based on 3D printed hydrogel-elastomer systems. Materials and Design, Elsevier, 2021, 202, pp.109515. ⟨10.1016/j.matdes.2021.109515⟩. ⟨hal-03173025⟩

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