Science of Soft Robots – Interdisciplinary integration of mechatronics, material science, and bio-computing

A02-2 : Motion control of soft robots realized by ion exchange membranes

Group members

Leader, Area manager Koichi Suzumori (Tokyo Institute of Technology)
Members Kinji Asaka (National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology)
Hiroyuki Nabae (Tokyo Institute of Technology)


A cornerstone of soft robotics is to create and control “soft movements.” In this research plan, we will establish academic research on the design, analysis, and evaluation of materials development to robot construction through close collaboration between two researchers specializing in actuator/robotics and functional polymer materials.

We focus on ion exchange membranes, which are basic materials in various electrochemical processes. Specifically, we strive to construct soft actuators/robots based on two principles. (1) Utilization of deformation caused by mass transfer within an exchange membrane due to a voltage application to an ion exchange membrane to realize a soft actuator. (2) Utilization of the volume change between a gas and a liquid due to gas generation and absorption by an electrode reaction at the exchange membrane/electrode interface to realize free motion control of a rubber actuator. With respect to an actuator/robot, we intend to develop (a) various ion exchange membrane materials and electrode materials specialized for soft robotics from the viewpoints of materials science, electrochemical analysis, and material simulations, and (b) devise a molding process by 3-D printing and molding to create various shape designs. We also strive to establish control methods from diverse viewpoints such as (c) control of electrochemical reactions and robot motion control. We would like to establish techniques to design and integrate actuators and robots using ion exchange membranes and contribute to the formation of an academic field on soft robotics kinematics to realize “soft movements.”