Fall 2012 - Fall 2016. The research objective of this grant is to elucidate the fundamental mechanisms that are responsible for contact, adhesion, and friction interactions between micro-patterned surfaces and soft fluid-coated substrates. The goal is to understand the generation of tractions; its dependence of key design, environmental, and operational parameters; and its impact on the mechanical response of the substrate. A multi-scale modeling framework will be used to capture the interplay of large macro- and micro-scale deformation phenomena during the roll-over of a treaded wheel over a soft wet substrate, in dependence of material, geometric, and operational parameters. The mechanical behavior of tread and substrate will be described by large deformation theories and appropriate constitutive models. The tight integration of modeling and experiments will provide novel insight into the contact mechanics of soft, wet materials, in particular into the microscopic phenomena for generating friction and the interplay of macro- and micro-scale mechanics for generating traction.

If successful, this research will facilitate the discovery of new types of patterned architectures and concepts and establish a crucial body of knowledge needed for the design of in vivo robotic devices that can reduce patient trauma and expand robotic surgery. The proposed educational program will introduce students at all levels, including those from typically underrepresented groups, to the excitement inherent in research conducted at the intersection of micro-fabrication, biomechanics, and robotics in general, and to the promise inherent in the world of surgical robotics specifically. The proposed educational activities will be enhanced by our access to the University of Colorado's Award-winning Integrated Teaching and Learning Laboratory.