Our technology, termed HASEL actuators, utilizes a fundamentally new approach to soft actuation by applying electrostatic forces to a hydraulic fluid to create shape change in a soft or flexible structure. This approach allows for the creation of soft fluidic actuators that are electrically controlled. In this way, we are able to leverage the benefits of both fluidic actuators and electrostatic actuators: the incorporation of a hydraulic fluid means our soft electrohydraulic actuators can be designed to achieve a variety of actuation modes; at the same time, the use of electrostatic forces enables our actuators to be controllable, fast, silent, and efficient.
This ground-breaking technology was featured recently in a TED talk: "The artificial muscles that will power robots of the future"
The basic structure of our electrohydraulic actuators uses three main components:
A flexible polymer shell formed into a closed pouch
An insulating liquid contained in the closed pouch
Flexible electrodes covering a portion of the pouch.
When a high voltage is applied to the electrodes, electrostatic forces cause the electrodes to zip together, which pressurizes the fluid and locally displaces it within the pouch, causing shape change in the soft hydraulic structure. The type of motion produced can be tuned, and depends on the materials used and the geometry of the electrodes and pouch.
Electrically-controlled soft linear actuator
Linear actuators are one of the key enabling technologies of our society, as evidenced by their widespread use in areas such as manufacturing and industrial automation, automobiles, aerospace, and bioinspired robotics. Using our technology, we can create linearly-contracting actuators that convert electrostatic forces directly into linear contraction without the use of rotating motors or transmission systems. Some key features include:
Lightweight and soft design
High speed actuation
Voltage-controlled input for continuous output control
Low cost materials
Customizable geometries and materials
Our actuators are made from inexpensive and industrially-available materials using scalable fabrication processes. This reduces actuator cost and makes our technology uniquely customizable. From geometry to materials, our actuators can be designed for a variety of mechanical and electrical properties, achieving actuation modes as diverse as contraction, expansion, and bending.
Beyond the typical performance criteria, our actuators can be engineered for a variety of unique attributes. Their electrostatic actuation provides a means for self-sensing deformation, alleviating the need for external sensors and providing a direct measurement of displacement. They can even be designed with transparent materials to create an actuator that is nearly invisible.
If your applications require any of these specialty designs, please reach out to us, as our R&D department is ready to meet your needs. We are always happy to discuss custom solutions or the potential for strategic research partnerships.
We are enabling a new generation of machines and robots that increase productivity and improve quality of life. Our products are based on a technology developed by the founders at the University of Colorado Boulder. As inventors of this technology, we are excited to bring it to market and to help solve some of the biggest challenges for the future of robotics and automation.