Bioinspired soft robotics aims at reproducing the complex hierarchy and architecture of biological tissues within artificial systems to achieve the typical motility and adaptability of living organisms. The development of suitable fabrication approaches to produce monolithic bodies provided with embedded variable morphological and mechanical properties, typically encountered in nature, is still a technological challenge. Here we report on a novel manufacturing approach to produce three-dimensional functionally graded hydrogels (3D-FGHs) provided with a controlled porosity gradient conferring them variable stiffness. 3D-FGHs are fabricated by means of a custom-designed liquid foam templating (LFT) technique, which relies on the inclusion of air bubbles generated by a blowing agent into the monomer-based template solution during ultraviolet-induced photopolymerization. The 3D-FGHs' apparent Young's modulus ranges from 0.37 MPa (bulky hydrogel region) to 0.09 MPa (highest porosity region). A fish-shaped soft swimmer is fabricated to demonstrate the feasibility of the LFT technique to produce bioinspired robots. Mobility tests show a significant improvement in terms of swimming speed when the robot is provided with a graded body. The proposed manufacturing approach constitutes an enabling solution for the development of macroscopic functionally graded hydrogel-based structures usable in biomimetic underwater soft robotics applications.

Monolithic Three-Dimensional Functionally Graded Hydrogels for Bioinspired Soft Robots Fabrication

Federica Iberite;Leonardo Ricotti;
2022

Abstract

Bioinspired soft robotics aims at reproducing the complex hierarchy and architecture of biological tissues within artificial systems to achieve the typical motility and adaptability of living organisms. The development of suitable fabrication approaches to produce monolithic bodies provided with embedded variable morphological and mechanical properties, typically encountered in nature, is still a technological challenge. Here we report on a novel manufacturing approach to produce three-dimensional functionally graded hydrogels (3D-FGHs) provided with a controlled porosity gradient conferring them variable stiffness. 3D-FGHs are fabricated by means of a custom-designed liquid foam templating (LFT) technique, which relies on the inclusion of air bubbles generated by a blowing agent into the monomer-based template solution during ultraviolet-induced photopolymerization. The 3D-FGHs' apparent Young's modulus ranges from 0.37 MPa (bulky hydrogel region) to 0.09 MPa (highest porosity region). A fish-shaped soft swimmer is fabricated to demonstrate the feasibility of the LFT technique to produce bioinspired robots. Mobility tests show a significant improvement in terms of swimming speed when the robot is provided with a graded body. The proposed manufacturing approach constitutes an enabling solution for the development of macroscopic functionally graded hydrogel-based structures usable in biomimetic underwater soft robotics applications.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11382/546335
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