Katia Bertoldi

Katia Bertoldi

William and Ami Kuan Danoff Professor of Applied Mechanics, Harvard University
Talk title: Soft robots: Where robotics meets mechanics
Katia Bertoldi

Soft robots comprising several inflatable actuators made of compliant materials have drawn significant attention over the past few years because of their ability to produce complex motions through nonlinear deformation. Their design simplicity, ease of fabrication and low cost sparked the emergence of soft robots capable of performing many tasks, including walking, crawling, camouflaging, and assisting humans in grasping, suggesting new paths for space exploration, biomimimetics, medical surgery and rehabilitation. However, to achieve a particular function existing fluidic soft robots typically require multiple input lines, since each actuator must be inflated and deflated independently according to a specific preprogrammed sequence. An interesting avenue to reduce the number of required input signals is the direct exploitation of the highly nonlinear behavior of the system without the introduction of additional stiff elements. In this talk I will present three different strategies that we have recently explored to achieve this. First, I will show that a segmented soft actuator reinforced locally with optimally oriented fibers can achieve complex configurations upon inflation with a single input source. Then, I will demonstrate that the non-linear properties of flexible two-dimensional metamaterials are also effective in reducing the complexity of the required input signal. Finally, through a combination of evolutionary optimization and experiments I will show that fluid viscosity in the tubes can be harnessed to design fluidic soft robots capable of achieving a wide variety of target responses through a single input.

Katia Bertoldi is the William and Ami Kuan Danoff Professor of Applied Mechanics at Harvard University. Professor Bertoldi's research involves the use of continuum mechanics and applied mathematics to model the mechanical behavior of novel materials at the small scale, such as nano-composites and biological composites. The aim of her group's research is to establish relationships between the internal structure of a material and its mechanical properties. The greater understanding of existing and potential discovery of new materials, especially those with improved and even "tunable" properties, have direct use in many critical fields, including acoustics, optics, and electronics. Her areas of research interest include: continuum mechanics analyses of behavior of modern materials; buckling and instabilities; waves propagation; constitutive modeling of polymers; computational mechanics; fracture mechanics; applied mathematics; and the mechanical behavior of biological materials. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2014 Thomas J. R. Hughes Young Investigator Award of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Contact Information

Pierce Hall, RM 311
Harvard University
John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
29 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA