Chemically Driven Oscillating Soft Pneumatic Actuation

Marcos Villeda-Hernandez, Ben C Baker, Christian P Romero, Jonathan M Rossiter, Michael P M Dicker, Charl F J Faul*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Pneumatic actuators are widely studied in soft robotics as they are facile, low cost, scalable, robust and exhibit compliance similar to many systems found in nature. The challenge is to harness high energy density chemical and biochemical reactions that can generate sufficient pneumatic pressure to actuate soft systems in a controlled and ecologically compatible manner. This investigation evaluates the potential of chemical reactions as both positive and negative pressure sources for use in soft robotic pneumatic actuators. Considering the pneumatic actuation demands, the chemical mechanisms of the pressure sources and the safety of the system, several gas evolution/consumption reactions are evaluated and compared. Furthermore, the novel coupling of both gas evolution and gas consumption reactions is discussed and evaluated for the design of oscillating systems, driven by the complementary evolution and consumption of CO2. Control over the speed of gas generation and consumption is achieved by adjusting the initial ratios of feed materials. Coupling the appropriate reactions with pneumatic soft-matter actuators has delivered autonomous cyclic actuation. The reversibility of these systems is demonstrated in a range of displacement experiments and practical application is shown through a soft gripper that can move, pick up and let go of objects. Our approach presents a significant step towards more autonomous, versatile, soft robots driven by chemo-pneumatic actuators.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalSoft Robotics
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Marcos Villeda-Hernandez thanks Bristol Centre for Functional Nanomaterials for and the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACyT, MX) grant number 497607 for funding. Marcos Villeda-Hernandez, Benjamin C. Baker, Christian Romero, Jonathan M. Rossiter, and Charl F.J. Faul thank the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) grant number EP/T020792/1 via the emPOWER project. Jonathan M. Rossiter was also supported by EPSRC grants EP/V062158/1, EP/V026518/1, EP/S026096/1, EP/R02961X/1 and the Royal Academy of Engineering as Chair in Emerging Technologies.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Mary Ann Liebert Inc.. All rights reserved.


  • Soft robotics
  • Chemistry
  • Pneumatic actuation
  • Chemical power source
  • Oscillating soft robots
  • Chemical reactions for soft robotics
  • Chemically driven pneumatic actuation


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