MechResCon2023: For soft robots, a new liquid metal droplet electronic device

Soft robots have many advantages, including diverse movement patterns, amicable human engagement, and adaptable actuation strategies.

However, the absence of suitable practical techniques and soft controllers makes the production of a fully integrated flexible robot still quite challenging. 

Using the locomotion and deformation behaviour of liquid metals (LMs) through the electrical stimulus, a team of researchers led by Prof. Jing Liu from the Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry (TIPC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences proposed and demonstrated a new type of liquid metal droplet electronic device. 

To do logical computing, the gadget could be further organised into gate logics.

The study initially showed the importance of liquid metals in intelligent electronic control systems when it was published on March 18th, 2021 in Advanced Intelligent Systems. It also provides a fresh method for creating soft electronic gadgets.

Liquid metal is a novel class of smart materials that is naturally flexible, electrically conductive, and stimuli-responsive. Exploring the potential use of LMs in control systems and developing soft intelligent electronic devices are both very conceivable. 

                                                         Jing Liu is a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry.

The novel technology directly develops electronic devices on soft materials to perform logical computations and operations, thereby reducing reliance on semiconductors. 

Through various connections to liquid metal droplet electronics, which have demonstrated consistent capability for binary logic calculation, a variety of logic gates can be easily created. 

By creating a soft four-degree logic accumulator using a liquid metal droplet electronic device that could control a pneumatic soft gripper within four states of inflation, the researchers showed that their application was practical.

Due to the lack of any cumbersome ancillary equipment and its ease of miniaturisation and integration, the spatial scale of motion involving liquid metals is quite tiny. 

In this study, the evaluation of logic devices based on liquid metals shown that electrically induced fluctuations of liquid on a macroscale might be built as processors to take in, transform, and export electrical signals. 

They may find possible uses to eventually reach the ultimate autonomy and manipulations of soft robots due to their natural compatibility with such devices and soft constructions.

Journal reference:

Advanced Intelligent Systems. Li, D.-D., et al. (2021). Liquid Metal-Enabled Soft Logic Devices.

Source: https://english.cas.cn/

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