Symposium SM01—Soft Materials, Sensors, Electronics, Displays and Actuators—Functional Components for Soft Machines and Robots
Soft machines and robots require a range of components with functionalities that cannot be achieved using traditional, rigid constructs. These components include: soft, tough materials of high elasticity, soft sensors, displays, electronics, antennas, and actuators, and adaptive, stimuli-responsive materials and structures. The properties needed from these technologies are rarely satisfied by one type of material; rather, the required function is only achieved by combining different materials, which span a diverse range of properties (e.g., mechanical, optical, electronic, thermal, etc.), together into hierarchical structures, composites, or assemblies. This process bridges the disciplines (chemistry, physics, mechanical and electrical engineering, etc.) of materials science, presenting a number of key challenges: (i) mitigating the mechanical and thermal mismatch between different materials during synthesis and operation, (ii) predicting the behavior of inherently non-linear mechanical systems, (iii) balancing the necessary performance characteristics of materials with the limitations of chemical and/or mechanical compatibility, and (iv) choosing appropriate modes (chemical, electrical, pneumatic, or combinations thereof) of power, communication, and control for systems that lay outside traditional engineering space. Strategies that overcome these challenges and enable the design, fabrication, integration, control, and operation of such functional, hybrid materials are critical to realizing the core technologies necessary to soft machines and robots.
Advances in numerous areas (e.g., soft materials, actuators, and sensors) make it easier to imagine a world filled with soft devices built to carry out a range of tasks, but they also illuminate a grand challenge for the community: Unlocking the promise of soft machines/robots requires methods that enable the facile combination of several soft components to yield functional systems. To illustrate and address this challenge, this symposium will cover the state of the art in this emergent and fast moving area of materials science by surveying the subsets of the field and bringing together a unique collection of invited speakers who represent critical areas. By providing a forum for this diverse set of scientists, this symposium represents a unique opportunity to shape the future of soft robots and machines.