A Modular Dielectric Elastomer Actuator to Drive Miniature Autonomous Underwater Vehicles

Florian Berlinger, Mihai Duduta, Hudson Gloria, David Clarke, Radhika Nagpal, Robert Wood

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

38 Scopus citations

Abstract

In this paper we present the design of a fin-like dielectric elastomer actuator (DEA) that drives a miniature autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV). The fin-like actuator is modular and independent of the body of the AUV. All electronics required to run the actuator are inside the 100 mm long 3D-printed body, allowing for autonomous mobility of the AUV. The DEA is easy to manufacture, requires no pre-stretch of the elastomers, and is completely sealed for underwater operation. The output thrust force can be tuned by stacking multiple actuation layers and modifying the Young's modulus of the elastomers. The AUV is reconfigurable by a shift of its center of mass, such that both planar and vertical swimming can be demonstrated on a single vehicle. For the DEA we measured thrust force and swimming speed for various actuator designs ran at frequencies from 1 Hz to 5 Hz. For the AUV we demonstrated autonomous planar swimming and closed-loop vertical diving. The actuators capable of outputting the highest thrust forces can power the AUV to swim at speeds of up to 0.55 body lengths per second. The speed falls in the upper range of untethered swimming robots powered by soft actuators. Our tunable DEAs also demonstrate the potential to mimic the undulatory motions of fish fins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, ICRA 2018
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
Pages3429-3435
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9781538630815
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 10 2018
Externally publishedYes
Event2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, ICRA 2018 - Brisbane, Australia
Duration: May 21 2018May 25 2018

Publication series

NameProceedings - IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation
ISSN (Print)1050-4729

Conference

Conference2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, ICRA 2018
Country/TerritoryAustralia
CityBrisbane
Period5/21/185/25/18

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering

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