Jun Zhang: Development of HASEL soft actuator for lightweight and high-performance grippers

Jun Zhang

Title

Development of HASEL soft actuator for lightweight and high-performance grippers

Mentor

Jun Zhang

Department

Mechanical Engineering

Background

Dr. Zhang joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno as an assistant professor in August 2018. His research interests lie in the intersection of control theory, robotics, smart materials and artificial muscles. In particular, he is interested in design, modeling, and control of smart materials and artificial muscles with applications to biomimetic soft robots, assistive robots and microelectromechanical systems.

He worked as a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, San Diego from January 2016 to August 2018. He received the Ph.D. degree in electrical and computer engineering from Michigan State University in 2015, and the B.S. degree in automation from the University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China, in 2011. He was the recipient of the Student Best Paper Competition Award at the ASME Conference on Smart Materials, Adaptive Structures, and Intelligent Systems (SMASIS 2012), and the Best Conference Paper in Application Award at the ASME Dynamic Systems and Control Conference (DSCC 2013) and was named the Electrical Engineering Outstanding Graduate Student at Michigan State University for 2014-2015.

Project overview

There is an increasing need for functional grippers to pick and examine objects in various areas, such as manufacturing, healthcare, and service. Soft robotic actuators yield huge potential. Soft actuators offer a new solution to safety, weight, and complexity restrictions using conventional electromagnetic motors. Additionally, handling objects that are delicate and irregular, such as fruits, may require a more delicate gripping capability than offered by conventional rigid grippers. There are a few existing soft actuators that have been used for soft robotic gripping applications, like fluidic elastomer actuators, electroactive polymers, and shape-memory materials. These actuators are often limited in strain generation and output frequency. Hydraulically Amplified Self-Healing Electrostatic (HASEL) actuators, as a recently developed technology, can overcome many existing limitations of soft actuators.