Hangbo Zhao, assistant professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering, has been selected for the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Young Investigator Program (YIP) Award for his research project titled “Dexterous Soft Robotic Manipulators via Spatiotemporally Electroprogrammable Stiffness and Self-Shape Sensing.”
The ONR YIP is a highly competitive program that aims to identify and support outstanding early-career researchers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) tackling innovative solutions to challenges facing the Navy and Marine Corps. Zhao was one of only 24 recipients selected from over 220 applicants this year.
Zhao’s project seeks to create soft robots capable of complex motions and tasks in unstructured environments. By incorporating distributed actuation and proprioception, Zhao hopes to overcome limitations in current soft robot capabilities.
This project was awarded $750,000 over a three-year period. Zhao’s work, if successful, will significantly improve the capabilities of soft robotic manipulators. This could open possibilities for highly dexterous manipulators with efficient closed-loop control, suitable for operation in dynamic, unstructured environments.
“Creating smart and dexterous soft robots to perform complex tasks in dynamic and unstructured environments is challenging,” said Zhao. “With the support of this ONR YIP, we hope to be closer to realizing this vision.”
The dexterous soft manipulators resulting from this research could have significant naval applications, including underwater exploration, confined space maintenance, and careful handling of hazardous materials. Zhao’s innovations in soft robotics actuation and sensing could pave the way for versatile and complex manipulation in a myriad of scenarios relevant to the U.S. Navy.
Published on October 25th, 2023
Last updated on October 25th, 2023