Air Products Distinguished Lecture Series: Self-Contained Hydraulic “Nastic” Actuators


Artificial muscles typically deliver either large displacements or high forces, but not both. This talk will introduce hydraulic actuators that take advantage of a micro-scale phenomenon, electro-osmotic fluid pumping.  This approach may make it possible to create a new type of electroactive polymer device that is self-contained and electrically actuated. Flexible devices can be fabricated by laminating together layers of paper and elastomer and encapsulating a pumping fluid – propylene carbonate – that does not generate gas bubbles.  Biomedical applications such as smart stents with adjustable diameters are being pursued, as well as use in small, soft autonomous robots.


Elisabeth Smela is a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Maryland, which she joined in 2000; she has a joint appointment in the Institute for Systems Research and holds affiliate appointments in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.  She received her BS in physics from MIT and completed her Ph.D. in electrical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. Smela’s interdisciplinary research interests center on microfabricated electroactive polymer actuators and on sensors that include an organic, polymeric, or biological component. She is best known for her work with electroactive polymers, particularly conjugated polymer micro-actuators. Recently she has been developing electrokinetically-driven hydraulic actuators, a “bionose” odorant sensor that utilizes living olfactory sensory neurons cultured on the surface of a chip, and simple large-area strain sensors for cancer detection and for use in touch-sensitive skins for robots. 


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Media Contact: Becky Benson



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