Description of impactThe key of research in this topic is to develop soft robotics and haptic devices and smart textile.
Soft Robotics and Haptics
Rapid advances in technologies demand devices to interact with humans and vice versa. Examples are healthcare related remote surgery, (micro/nano-) robots that perform picking and delivering of objects and touch panels that are interactive, Current touchscreen technologies convey feedback mostly in the form of vibration. Although it acknowledges users’ input it is global other than local. We are aiming for developing polymer-based materials for localized haptic feedback by introducing a (micro-)morphing surface which transfers between flat and a pre-set structured state. This will enhance people’s touch experience and channel the human-machine communication. Creating dynamic surface morphing will induce other robotic functions. For example, a topography-modulated change in tribology (friction, stick and adhesion) can be used for robotic manipulation, e.g. transporting, gripping or releasing objects. Also sub-micron surface structures alter the wettability and find the application in self-cleaning surfaces.
Smart textiles are a new generation of materials which are applied in many fields, including fashion, medicine, sports, or entertainment. Our work aims at optimization of light distribution from LEDs as well as at developing new concepts for smart coated (humidity-, thermo- and photoresponsive) textiles. Diffractive and reflective optical coatings are also incorporated into fibers to change their perception and to generate new degrees of freedom for textile and fashion designers. In addition, responsive fibers are developed which react to stimuli such as light, humidity and temperature to produce fabrics which react to environmental conditions.
Secretion is a common phenomenon in nature. For example, fishes secrete slimy mucus from their skin to protect against parasites from attaching to the scales, reducing friction with water to make them swim faster. In our humans, skin excretes skin oil to defend body against bacteria; we sweat to regulate body temperature. Inspired by the skins of living creatures, we aim to develop a strategy for a coating that is capable to repeatedly release and reabsorb substances under the environmental changes (heat, light, electricity, pH). Controlled released of liquid from large coating surface area finds the applications in self-cleaning surfaces where the released lubricant modifying surface wettability and repel the attachment of various contaminations including debris, bacteria, ice, and liquid at the coating surfaces. It also can be used for biomedical purposes such as plasters that control humidity and slowly release antibiotics at the skin to cure wounds; release of chemical reagents for medical analysis in microfluidic channels.
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