The virtue of being soft: examples from nature and opportunities for engineering

Dr Paolo Paoletti from the University of Liverpool will discuss traditional engineered stiff components vs. animals' use of soft limbs to interact with their environment.

Traditional engineered systems are composed of stiff components, a typical example being a robotic manipulator made of rigid links connected by actuated joints. However, a lot of animals have adopted a different strategy: use soft limbs/bodies and distributed compliance to safely interact with the surrounding environment.

This seminar will describe two cases showing how using soft materials can help in transferring the control effort from the centralized controller to the mechanical response of the body or device. In particular:

  1. How soft bodies in larvae can allow proprioception-driven locomotion
  2. How soft artificial graspers can be designed to mimic impedance control strategies in absence of real-time sensing or control

It will then briefly outline some of the open questions and future opportunities for the researchers working in this field.

More about Dr Paolo Paoletti

Dr Paolo Paoletti is a Senior Lecturer in Control at the University of Liverpool. He graduated in Automation Engineering (2006) and obtained a PhD in Nonlinear Dynamics and Complex Systems (2010) from the University of Florence, Italy. Before joining the University of Liverpool, he worked as research assistant at the Italian Institute for Complex Systems (2010), and as postdoctoral fellow at the School of Engineering and Applied Science, Harvard University (2010- 2012). In 2014 he was awarded the Rising Star award from the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. 

His research interests lie in nonlinear dynamics and control, with a special focus on problems that sit at the boundary between different traditional disciplines such as biology, robotics, computer science, mathematics and physics. He is particularly interested in using dynamical systems and control to understand locomotion and coordination in animals and humans, and in translating such understanding to design new bio-inspired systems.

Further information

For more information about Robotics at Leeds, visit the web page.