Electro-pneumatic Pumps for Soft Robotics

R S Diteesawat, T Helps, M Taghavi, J Rossiter*

*Corresponding author for this work

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

11 Citations (Scopus)
932 Downloads (Pure)


Soft Robotics has applications in myriad fields from assistive wearables to autonomous exploration. Currently, the portability and performance of many devices is limited by their associated pneumatic energy source, requiring either large, heavy pressure vessels or noisy, inefficient air pumps. Here we present a lightweight, flexible, Electro-pneumatic Pump (EPP), which can silently control volume and pressure, enabling portable, local energy provision for Soft Robots, overcoming the limitations of existing pneumatic power sources. The EPP is actuated using dielectric-fluid-amplified electrostatic zipping, and the device presented here can exert pressures up to 2.34 kilopascals, deliver volumetric flow rates up to 161 millilitres per minute and under 0.5 watts of power, despite only having a thickness of 1.1 millimetres and weight of 5.3 grams. An EPP was able to drive a typical Soft Robotic actuator to achieve a maximum contraction change of 32.40% and actuation velocity of 54.43% per second. We highlight the versatility of this technology by presenting three EPP-driven embodiments: an antagonistic mechanism, an arm-flexing wearable robotic device, and a continuous-pumping system. This work shows the wide applicability of the EPP to enable advanced wearable assistive devices and lightweight, mobile, multifunctional robots.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbereabc3721
JournalScience Robotics
Issue number51
Early online date17 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 24 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
R.S.D. was supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) through grants EP/L015293/1 and EP/S026096/1. T.H. was supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Office of the Chief Science Adviser for National Security under the UK Intelligence Community Postdoctoral Fellowship Programme. M.T. was supported by EPSRC grant EP/R02961X/1. J.R. was supported by EPSRC grants EP/L015293/1, EP/M020460/1, EP/R02961X/1, and EP/S026096/1; the Royal Academy of Engineering through the Chair in Emerging Technologies scheme; and Royal Society - ERA Foundation Translation Award TA\R1\170060.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2021 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works


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