Bistable and Multistable Actuators for Soft Robots: Structures, Materials, and Functionalities
[Review of ]. ADVANCED MATERIALS, 34(19).
Snap-through bistability is often observed in nature (e.g., fast snapping to closure of Venus flytrap) and the life (e.g., bottle caps and hair clippers). Recently, harnessing bistability and multistability in different structures and soft materials has attracted growing interest for high-performance soft actuators and soft robots. They have demonstrated broad and unique applications in high-speed locomotion on land and under water, adaptive sensing and fast grasping, shape reconfiguration, electronics-free controls with a single input, and logic computation. Here, an overview of integrating bistable and multistable structures with soft actuating materials for diverse soft actuators and soft/flexible robots is given. The mechanics-guided structural design principles for five categories of basic bistable elements from 1D to 3D (i.e., constrained beams, curved plates, dome shells, compliant mechanisms of linkages with flexible hinges and deformable origami, and balloon structures) are first presented, alongside brief discussions of typical soft actuating materials (i.e., fluidic elastomers and stimuli-responsive materials such as electro-, photo-, thermo-, magnetic-, and hydro-responsive polymers). Following that, integrating these soft materials with each category of bistable elements for soft bistable and multistable actuators and their diverse robotic applications are discussed. To conclude, perspectives on the challenges and opportunities in this emerging field are considered.