Soft robotics is a relatively new research field that aims to realize a new generation of robots and machines with so-called embodied intelligence. In traditional robots, achieving safe and “natural” interaction with humans or the environment is complicated due to their intrinsic rigidity, and it mainly relies on control software and on-board electronics. Soft robots take an alternative approach by harnessing their intrinsic compliance, similar to, e.g., an octopus that is able to mechanically adapt to its environment and interact with a variety of objects and animals. Such mechanical intelligence is often found in nature and drives researchers in finding novel design principles for the next generation of robots.
A specific type of soft robots are powered pneumatically. One of the major drawbacks in these pneumatic soft robots is their control, which still relies on rigid and bulky components such as rigid pumps, valves and sensors. This requirement limits the autonomy of soft robots. To address this problem, we are researching novel ways to control soft robots without the need for electronics and rigid components, relying entirely on fluids and (non-linear) mechanics of structural components embedded in the flow. To do so, among other approaches, we are focusing on soft fluidic sensors that provide feedback to the robot upon interaction with humans or the environment. As a result, the intelligence of the robot would derive from its own soft structure and internal fluid flows, without relying on any electronics. Providing electronics-free feedback capabilities to soft robots is an essential step towards the goal of creating fully autonomous soft robots, for applications such as exploration of unknown environments, search and rescue, bio-medical devices and more.
This internship will focus on the fluidic sensor design and the understanding of its working principle. The specific kind of work can vary and depends on the student’s interest and background. Potential projects could be related to a combination of (inverse) design explorations, manufacturing of prototypes and experiments, Finite Element Analysis or mathematical modelling with a lumped parameters approach (reduced-order system of differential equations).
The internship is open to Master’s degree candidates from a range of backgrounds, including Engineering, Physics, Computer Science, Mathematics or a related field. The Soft Robotic Matter group is looking for a highly motivated candidate with a go-getter mentality and team spirit. Excellent verbal and written communication skills (in English) are essential. The internship must be a mandatory part of your curriculum. You have a nationality of an EU-member state and/or you are a student at a Netherlands University. Please note: As of January 2021 the UK is no longer an EU member state. You must be available for preferably more than 6 months.