Soft Biomimetic Fish Robot Made of Dielectric Elastomer Actuators

This article presents the design, fabrication, and characterization of a soft biomimetic robotic fish based on dielectric elastomer actuators (DEAs) that swims by body and/or caudal fin (BCF) propulsion. BCF is a promising locomotion mechanism that potentially offers swimming at higher speeds and acceleration rates, and efficient locomotion. The robot consists of laminated silicone layers wherein two DEAs are used in an antagonistic configuration, generating undulating fish-like motion. The design of the robot is guided by a mathematical model based on the Euler–Bernoulli beam theory and takes account of the nonuniform geometry of the robot and of the hydrodynamic effect of water. The modeling results were compared with the experimental results obtained from the fish robot with a total length of 150 mm, a thickness of 0.75 mm, and weight of 4.4 g. We observed that the frequency peaks in the measured thrust force produced by the robot are similar to the natural frequencies computed by the model. The peak swimming speed of the robot was 37.2 mm/s (0.25 body length/s) at 0.75 Hz. We also observed that the modal shape of the robot at this frequency corresponds to the first natural mode. The swimming of the robot resembles real fish and displays a Strouhal number very close to those of living fish. These results suggest the high potential of DEA-based underwater robots relying on BCF propulsion, and applicability of our design and fabrication methods.

Published in:
Soft Robotics, 5, 4, 466-474
Jun 29 2018

 Record created 2018-07-03, last modified 2019-12-05

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