PhD position in Soft Robotics – Creating functionality with nonlinear interconnections

Updated: 3 months ago
Deadline: 15 Apr 2023

About ILUMIS: Actuation, energy storage, sensing, and logic are four functionalities of both natural and artificial organisms, giving them the ability to thrive in their environment. As demonstrated in nature by the common octopus, the distribution of these four functionalities throughout the body creates a blueprint for autonomous and intelligent behavior. This concept of ‘functional embodiment’ is currently non-existing in soft robotics. ILUMIS will create soft robots with embodied functionality by transitioning from a conventional robotic architecture to a fluidic network architecture. Further, by incorporating nonlinearities in all the network elements, the global system acts as a state machine, meaning that the output not only depends on the input, but also on its internal state. How to navigate this state space will be encoded within the nonlinearities, creating embodied intelligence. ILUMIS will overcome the main challenges of inverse design, where a desired behavior requires the optimization of a network of nonlinear structures. Thereby ILUMIS will create a new blueprint for soft robotic design with embodied functionality that closes the gap with nature’s soft organisms.

This PhD project will focus on the interconnections inside this fluidic network. You will explore new ‘valve’ designs that incorporate structural nonlinearities, model their behavior, and develop an inverse design framework to create functionality from these nonlinearities. Further, you will manufacture these novel design on the centimeter and millimeter scale, characterize their behavior, and create soft robots where the functionality originates form the passive interconnections. 

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