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The Development of Hybrid Soft Robots

University of Birmingham - School of Engineering

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Birmingham
Funding for: UK Students
Funding amount: Not Specified
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 27th September 2022
Closes: 4th November 2022

 Soft robots are a relatively new form of robotic system that has seen a significant increase in interest in recent years. Unlike a traditional robot, soft robots do not consist of hard, heavy, and rigid material and instead are formed from lightweight flexible materials. They have many potential advantages over traditional rigid systems with potential application in a broad range of sectors from manufacturing and maintenance through to healthcare. However, many of the soft robotic systems have been developed for the sake of scientific exploration rather than for a specific application and with a few exceptions have not been proven outside a laboratory

The presence of a rigid skeleton gives rigid robots advantages over soft robots, most notably in their ability to support much higher loads. Soft robots often deform or buckle when high loads are applied to them, in most cases the soft robots that have been demonstrated have tended to be physically small as just like in nature as their weight becomes higher, they require a skeleton to provide support.

The aim of this research is to explore the development of hybrid soft-rigid robotic systems which can morph between being a soft manipulator and a more traditional rigid serial link manipulator. This research will develop hybrid soft-rigid robots with a minimum volume of lightweight rigid components. When the system is in its soft mode these rigid components will move freely but when the arm is required to experience high loads or lift high payloads it will switch to a secondary mode allowing sections to become rigid, this will provide the robot with the ability to change its morphology depending upon the task it is performing. The technology developed will have numerous applications including, robot manipulators, grippers, and exoskeletons

The successful applicants should have a first class degree in engineering and preferably an MSc in robotics or a closely related subject.

A fully funded (stipend+fees) PhD studentship is available for UK home students

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