Application of ultrasonic motors to MR-compatible haptic interfaces

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imagery (fMRI) is an imaging technique allowing the observation of brain activity. Haptic interfaces can be used in conjunction with fMRI to stimulate the subject while measuring brain activity. Using robotic stimulation over conventional methods offers repeatability, flexibility and the possibility of logging of different experiment variables. Such system becomes a powerful tool for neuroscience study, diagnostic and rehabilitation. The MR scanner with its high magnetic fields and radio frequency pulses is a harsh environment for a robotic system. Robots that can operate safely and do not induce disturbances in the imaging of the scanner are qualified as MR-compatible. The actuation of these robots is an important issue. Electrical power brought to the actuator represents an important source of interferences with the scanner. Since electrical motors cannot be introduced in the MR room, haptic interfaces are conventionally remotely actuated over a long transmission with the actuators placed outside of the MR room. In particular cases, such as the study of finger motion, small haptic interfaces with limited force ranges are required. Remote actuation methods impose transmission lengths and means that cannot be reduced nor scaled down thus imposing a trade-off between performances and size reduction in these applications. This work investigates an alternative actuator that can achieve high-quality force-interactions with the fingers. The Ultrasonic Motor (USM) is MR-compatible and offers good performances. But it is not well suited for force-feedback and may be hazardous for the users. To address these issues, mechanical solutions are investigated by using an electrical analogy applied to mechanical systems. A novel actuation system using the USM as a power source and a clutch to control the output torque is proposed: the Hybrid USM Clutch Actuator (HUCA). The first prototype validates the different mechanical concepts developed in this work. The second, MR-compatible, integrates a clutch based on electrorheological fluids (ER). MR-compatibility has been validated and performances evaluated. Since the HUCA has the unique property of behaving both like a force source and a velocity source, dedicated control schemes have been developed to implement impedance and admittance force control. These enable the display of stiff walls and the rendering of a wide range of impedances thanks to the overlap of their range of displayable impedances. Compared to the hydrostatic transmission actuation, the HUCA shows higher performances and user safety. Furthermore, the powering through electrical wires allows developments of multi-DOF interfaces.

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