25th Anniversary Article: A Soft Future: From Robots and Sensor Skin to Energy Harvesters
Article first published online: 4 NOV 2013
© 2013 The Authors. Published by WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.
Volume 26, Issue 1, pages 149–162, January 8, 2014
How to Cite
Bauer, S., Bauer-Gogonea, S., Graz, I., Kaltenbrunner, M., Keplinger, C. and Schwödiauer, R. (2014), 25th Anniversary Article: A Soft Future: From Robots and Sensor Skin to Energy Harvesters. Adv. Mater., 26: 149–162. doi: 10.1002/adma.201303349
- Issue published online: 2 JAN 2014
- Article first published online: 4 NOV 2013
- Manuscript Received: 19 JUL 2013
- soft robots and energy generators;
- ultrathin electronics;
- artificial eyes;
- self-healing and –cleaning
Scientists are exploring elastic and soft forms of robots, electronic skin and energy harvesters, dreaming to mimic nature and to enable novel applications in wide fields, from consumer and mobile appliances to biomedical systems, sports and healthcare. All conceivable classes of materials with a wide range of mechanical, physical and chemical properties are employed, from liquids and gels to organic and inorganic solids. Functionalities never seen before are achieved. In this review we discuss soft robots which allow actuation with several degrees of freedom. We show that different actuation mechanisms lead to similar actuators, capable of complex and smooth movements in 3d space. We introduce latest research examples in sensor skin development and discuss ultraflexible electronic circuits, light emitting diodes and solar cells as examples. Additional functionalities of sensor skin, such as visual sensors inspired by animal eyes, camouflage, self-cleaning and healing and on-skin energy storage and generation are briefly reviewed. Finally, we discuss a paradigm change in energy harvesting, away from hard energy generators to soft ones based on dielectric elastomers. Such systems are shown to work with high energy of conversion, making them potentially interesting for harvesting mechanical energy from human gait, winds and ocean waves.