Soft robotics is a field of robotic system design characterized by materials and structures that exhibit large-scale deformation, high compliance, and rich multifunctionality. The incorporation of soft and deformable structures endows soft robotic systems with the compliance and resiliency that makes them well-adapted for unstructured and dynamic environments. While actuation mechanisms for soft robots vary widely, soft electrostatic transducers such as dielectric elastomer actuators (DEAs) and hydraulically amplified self-healing electrostatic (HASEL) actuators have demonstrated promise due to their muscle-like performance and capacitive selfsensing capabilities. Despite previous efforts to implement self-sensing in electrostatic transducers by overlaying sinusoidal low-voltage signals, these designs still require sensing high-voltage signals, requiring bulky components that prevent integration with miniature, untethered soft robots. We present a circuit design that eliminates the need for any high-voltage sensing components, thereby facilitating the design of simple, low cost circuits using off-the-shelf components. Using this circuit, we perform simultaneous sensing and actuation for a range of electrostatic transducers including circular DEAs and HASEL actuators and demonstrate accurate estimated displacements with errors under 4%. We further develop this circuit into a compact and portable system that couples HV actuation, sensing, and computation as a prototype towards untethered, multifunctional soft robotic systems. Finally, we demonstrate the capabilities of our self-sensing design through feedback-control of a robotic arm powered by Peano-HASEL actuators.
Ly, K., Kellaris, N., McMorris, D., Johnson, B.K., Acome, E., Sundaram, V., Naris, M., Humbert, J.S., Rentschler, M.E., Keplinger, C. and Correll, N., 2021. Miniaturized circuitry for capacitive self-sensing and closed-loop control of soft electrostatic transducers. Soft Robotics, 8(6), pp.673-686. [PDF]