A research team of Seoul National University (Co-senior authors: Professor Yongtaek Hong, Jaeha Kim, and Kyu-Jin Cho) has developed a skin-like electronic system that is soft, thin, lightweight and can wirelessly activate soft robots through a simple lamination process.
They developed an electronic skin (e-skin) pair as a two-part, wireless soft driving system based on a fully printable “stretchable hybrid electronics” approach. One part is the e-skin for input sensing at a human side, and the other for activating soft robots. The e-skins are soft (same material for the target robot body), thin (<1 mm), and lightweight (~0.8 g) and also feature the spatially fragmented circuit configuration with a slew of miniature IC components (standard dimension, <1.5 mm × 1.5 mm). Therefore, they can be stretched and conformed onto the dynamic surface like human skin or soft robots.
The electronic functionality of this system is “wireless inter-skin communication”. The e-skin pair can perform wireless communication of the four-state control signal at a distance of more than 5 m, and the embedded encoding mechanism makes the inter-skin communication noise-tolerant.
The proposed e-skins can be softly, compactly, and reversibly assembled into soft robot frames to activate muscle-like soft actuators without interfering with their soft motions. Benefits of this e-skin-mediated soft robotic assembly include coadaptive movement that helps the robot pass through and/or operate in highly confined spaces, whose cross section is even smaller than the robot size. Furthermore, the proposed e-skin pair and corresponding wireless inter-skin communication concept can wirelessly activate multiple types of soft robots through reversible assembly of the e-skins.
The researchers said, “Soft robots have great advantages in organically integrating every robot components without rigid boundaries, but current soft robotic designs still rely on rigid components mostly in driving parts. This e-skin opens a new avenue for soft robotic assembly. It is soft, thin, and light enough for a robot not to be perceptible, but it can activate the robot as ‘a driving skin’.”
The research will be published in the 18th issue of Science Robotics on May 30, 2018.
>> Professor Yongtaek Hong Professor Yongtaek Hong is a full professor of Dept. Elec. & Comp. Eng., Seoul National University. He was a visiting professor of Dept. Chem. Eng., Stanford University, from 2012 to 2013. His research interests are printed/flexible/stretchable thin-film devices, display and sensors for wearable applications. Prof. Hong received IEEE EDS "2005 George E. Smith Award", IEEE/IEEK "Young IT Engineer of The Year Award" in 2010, IEC “1906 Award” in 2012, "Industrial Technology of the Month Award" and "KEIT Chairman's Award" from MOTIE of Korean Government in 2014, and 2015, respectively, SNU CoE Shin Yang Engineering Award in 2015, Best Academic Development in Printed & Flexible Electronics Award and 100 Technology Lighting-up Korea in 2025 Award in 2017. He is a convener of IEC TC110 WG8 (Flexible Display Devices), an executive board member of KIDS, chairs of IEEE ED Seoul Chapter and SID Chapter Formation. He is a member of SID, KIDS, and IEEE.
>> Professor Jaeha Kim Professor Jaeha Kim is an Associate Professor with Seoul National University, and also a founder of Scientific Analog, Inc., Palo Alto, CA, USA, an EDA company on analog/mixed-signal verification. His current research interests include low-power mixed-signal systems and their design methodologies. Dr. Kim was a recipient of the Takuo Sugano Award for Outstanding Far-East Paper at 2005 International Solid-State Circuits Conference and the Low Power Design Contest Award at 2001 International Symposium on Low Power Electronics and Design. He is cited as a Top 100 Technology Leader of Korea in 2020 by the National Academy of Engineering of Korea. He served on the Technical Program Committees of the International Solid-State Circuits Conference, the Custom Integrated Circuits Conference, the Design Automation Conference, the International Conference on Computer Aided Design, and the Asian Solid-State Circuit Conference. >>
Professor Kyu-Jin Cho Professor Kyu-Jin Cho is the director of the Soft Robotics Research Center in Seoul National University. He received the IEEE RAS Early Career award in 2014 for his achievement in the field of soft robots and bio-inspired robots. In 2015, He developed the water strider robot published in the journal Science. In 2016, he presented the Exo-Glove Poly, a glove-like soft robot that helps people with disabilities in their daily lives, at the AAAS Annual Convention. In April of the same year, he won the Soft Robot Challenge with the robot named 'SNUMAX' which was held in Pisa, Italy for the first time.