Tunable Multi-Modal Locomotion in Soft Dielectric Elastomer Robots

Mihai Duduta, Florian Berlinger, Radhika Nagpal, David R. Clarke, Robert J. Wood, F. Zeynep Temel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Soft robots require strong, yet flexible actuators for locomotion and manipulation tasks in unstructured environments. Dielectric elastomer actuators (DEAs) are well suited for these challenges in soft robotics because they operate as compliant capacitors and directly convert electrical energy into mechanical work, thereby allowing for simple design integration at a minimal footprint. In most demonstrations, DEA-based robots are limited to a single mode of locomotion, for example crawling, swimming, or jumping. In this work, we explored a range of actuation patterns in combination with a novel actuator design to enable multi-modal locomotion, whereby an actuation pattern is defined by an actuation voltage (proportional to the applied electric field) and frequency (the actuation rate). We present a DEA robot capable of three different gaits including crawling, hopping, and jumping. In addition, our robot can set itself upright by performing a roll, for example to prepare for the next jump after landing on its side. These results demonstrate that DEAs can be used as versatile experimental devices to validate locomotion models, in both natural and engineered systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9050920
Pages (from-to)3868-3875
Number of pages8
JournalIEEE Robotics and Automation Letters
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Control and Optimization
  • Artificial Intelligence


  • Soft robotics
  • dielectric elastomer actuators
  • impulsive system
  • jumping robot
  • multi-modal locomotion


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