Stretchable sensors for soft materials

Researchers at the University of Dundee have developed novel stretchable sensors for applications ranging from soft robotics to haptic soft wearable devices.

→ Novel stretchable sensor with wide applications
→ Simple construction process
→ Low noise to signal ratio
→ Closed-loop control implementation
→ Information on complex shapes

Background

There is a clear requirement for new technologies and innovation in the area of stretchable sensors and stretchable electronics, primarily due to the rapid growth in two new areas: soft robotics and wearable technology.
 
The soft robotics market has been described as being “the next industrial revolution”* set to have a major impact on all aspects of our society and industries, ranging from manufacturing and consumer devices to medical applications and wearable technology. 
 
The Global Wearable Devices Market is expected to exceed more than US$ 51.50 Billion by 2022**.With recent advancements in the fields, flexible and stretchable sensor systems have gained significance as an important subset of the field of sensors. The ultimate sensors for soft robots are thin, stretchable and robust to reconfiguration of the moving body shapes and tasks. Some recent technologies have been reported using conductive polymers or optical fibres but they have technical issues around reliability, high noise to signal ratio, and poor potential for miniaturization. Continued technological innovation is required in order to make the soft robotics potential a commercial reality.

The Opportunity

A research team at the University of Dundee have developed novel stretchable sensors built with cost effective, miniaturised parts and with improved performance in terms of stable output signal, low noise to signal ratio, and fast response time. The sensors are capable of measuring complex deformation and their performance levels have enabled the implementation of a closed-loop control, never before achieved in soft robotics.
 
The sensors have a simple construction process and the flexible design can provide information on complex shapes, and can follow the elongation of any materials with a higher range than current state of the art.
 
As a proof of concept of this invention, a three Degrees of Freedom (DoFs) pneumatic soft actuator was built with three miniaturised sensors and demonstrated good performance in terms of low noise and fast response time which makes it usable with a closed-loop control.

Commercial Opportunity

The University is seeking a commercial partner for this technology and contact is welcomed from organisations interested in developing, licensing or exploiting this opportunity.

* IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine Volume: 23, Issue: 3, Sept. 2016

IP Status: The technology will be protected by a patent application – currently in draft.