Researchers at the Wise Institute have developed a new smart fabric that inflates and deflates temperature-dependent liquid gas phasechanges. The researchers believe the new smart fabric could be used to make software robots, or to use a specially designed fabric to help with rehabilitation and to protect wearers when performing strenuous tasks as enhancers.
The team also believes that the smart fabric can be used in non-wearable but self-operated devices. These devices include devices such as textile-based soft robots to help muscles and activate tissues such as nerve fibers to repair damage or prevent damage to them first. Soft robots can apply physical force to the body at the right frequency and at precise positions.
In general, soft robots are pneumatically driven and require a compressor to modulate internal air pressure and to assemble bulky pipes. This newly developed intelligent thermally active textile, also known as STATs, can cause pressure changes by electro-controlling the liquid-steam phase change in textiles. This eliminates the need for pneumatic tethers and opens up new fabric robot applications.
The researchers say their goal is to self-regulate by designing machine fabrics that can be electronically sensed and driven with integrated closed-loop feedback control. The material must also be manufactured in any shape and in large quantities. STATs can support all of these features and are lightweight and unobtrusive.
STATs are made into tightly sealed pouches with a thermosealable polyurethane coated with commercially available woven textile film, which contains embedded electroactive components. The team used an engineering fluid called NOVEC 7000 to provide dynamic power to the electronic ses inside STATs, which needed only heat vaporization and expanded up to 100 times in volume, allowing the robot textiles to increase and reduce internal pressure over a wide range, generating a peak pressure of about 75 kPa at room temperature.