Federico Carpi 'Smart material based biomedical and bioinspired mechatronic systems'
Date: Tue 21 Feb 2012, 10:00 - 11:00
Location: SEMS Seminar Room
Federico Carpi University of Pisa, School of Engineering, Interdepartmental Research Centre 'E. Piaggio', Pisa, Italy
Smart material based biomedical and bioinspired mechatronic systems
The development of a variety of new biomedical and bioinspired mechatronic systems poses challenges that share the need for innovative technologies for electromechanical transduction, so as to enable applications not feasible or even imaginable with conventional approaches. To address this need, innovative technologies based on electromechanically active polymer (EAP) transducers are progressively emerging as a promising solution. The idea is to use 'active materials' that exhibit a inherent mechanical response to an electrical stimulus, so as to design radically new electrical devices characterized by light weight, mechanical compliance, compact size, simple structure, low power consumption, acoustically silent operation, and low cost. EAPs offer such properties and are referred to as 'smart materials' or 'artificial muscle materials', because of their ability to deform upon electrical stimulation. This lecture will deal with the most versatile and performing EAP technology, known as dielectric elastomer actuators. The lecture will show how dielectric elastomer actuation can enable biomedical and bioinspired systems impossible with other technologies. Following a brief overview on the field and the underpinning physical and engineering fundamentals, the lecture will present the following examples of applications under development for innovative assistive technologies: wearable haptic displays for vibro-tactile feedback in virtual reality systems; variable-stiffness orthotic systems for motor rehabilitation of the hand; refreshable Braille displays as portable tactile readers for the blinds; bioinspired systems for artificial vision.