Seminar with Dr. Ahmad Rafsanjani: Embodied Intelligence in Soft Robotic Materials

Monday, March 2, 2020

5 King's College Rd.

Speaker: Dr. Ahmad Rafsanjani, Complex Materials, Department of Materials, ETH Zurich

Title: Embodied Intelligence in Soft Robotic Materials

Abstract: Soft-bodied animals are perfected through natural evolution to exploit their highly deformable bodies to perform sophisticated tasks and adaptively interact with changing environments. These soft creatures serve as rich sources of inspiration for the development of soft robots that seek to achieve complex motions through their compliant nature. Towards this goal, flexible mechanical metamaterials which are morphable structures having properties that are mainly governed by the geometry of their microstructure rather than only their chemical makeup offer a powerful platform to blur the boundaries between materials and machines. By embedding the functions within the structure of materials we can imbue soft robots with sensing, actuation, computation, and interactive functionalities. In this talk, I will focus on selected metamaterial types that can enable us to assign primitive forms of physical intelligence to soft robots. I will demonstrate proof-of-concept prototypes that can realize specific functions such as material-level motion planning, pattern transformation, and locomotion, and discuss the potential applications of soft robotic materials for solving our daily life challenges.

Bio: Ahmad Rafsanjani is a postdoctoral researcher in the Complex Materials group lead by André R. Studart at ETH Zurich. He obtained his doctorate from ETH Zurich in 2013 for his thesis on the mechanics of natural hierarchical materials. He is a recipient of three prestigious postdoctoral mobility awards from the Swiss National Science Foundation and worked with Damiano Pasini at McGill University (2014-2016) and Katia Bertoldi at Harvard University (2016-2018). In his multidisciplinary research, he takes inspiration from Nature and combines modeling and experiments to blur the lines between materials and machines. He creates soft robotic materials with embodied physical intelligence, novel functionalities, and programmable responses, and explores digital manufacturing technologies that enable their physical realization. His works were published in peer-reviewed journals including Science Robotics, Advanced Materials, Advanced Functional Materials, PRL, and PNAS. His research communicated with the public via highlights in major media outlets and occasional collaboration with artists. He envisions the outcome of his research can find applications in smart healthcare technologies, wearable robots, soft rehabilitation, aerospace, and search-and-rescue missions.


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