Autonomous soft robots without electronics – How dielectric elastomers will change robotic development (Video) Event as iCalendar


21 June 2016

4 - 5pm

Venue: Ground Floor Seminar Room (G10)

Location: 70 Symonds Street, Auckland Central

Markus Henke

A seminar by Dr. E.-F. Markus Henke, Auckland Bioengineering Institute and Solid State Electronics Lab, TU Dresden, Germany.


Conventional robots usually use heavy rigid components, such as engines, gearboxes and linkages that are made of high-density materials. Although they can perform complex movements and processes, they are typically not able to perform movements similar to those of living animals. Dielectric elastomer (DE) actuators,  in contrast, allow animal-like behavior of soft robots with large natural strokes. However, these advantageous features are often limited by the requirement for modulated high voltage signals and connected bulky and expensive electronics.

We present a novel approach to integrate charge control, external sensing and high voltage signal processing into DEs. Since all necessary electric components are integrated and only consist of common DE materials, such as polymer membranes and carbon grease,  soft robots developed using this approach are self-controlled and do not need any conventional, external electronics. The biomimetic structures only need constant direct current to supply suitable charge to the functional components.

We show our latest developments like crawling electronics-free robots, concepts for flying robots and concepts for dielectric high voltage Boolean logic. Furthermore, we give an overview of a joint project with TU Dresden that will develop these laboratory processes to modern mass production scale technologies.

About the Speaker

Dr Markus Henke received his Diploma and his PhD degrees in mechatronics from the Technische Universit├Ąt Dresden (TU Dresden) in 2010 and 2014, respectively. During his PhD studies he was working at the Solid-State Electronic Laboratory at the TU Dresden and did research in adaptive composite materials.

He joined the Auckland Bioengineering Institute in 2015 as a postdoctoral researcher, working on soft biomimetic robotics in the Biomimetics Laboratory.