Soft robots are able to do a number of different things but they move slowly. Actuators, the artificial muscles for soft robots, usually use pneumatics or hydraulics. These are hard to store and don’t respond quickly. There is, however, a solution for this in the form of dielectric elastomers.
Dielectric elastomers have some of the important qualities necessary for this use including good insulation and soft materials but they are lacking the ability to provide high voltage and rigid components so that their form can be maintained. These elastomers use inefficient and complex circuitry to provide high voltage and, without rigid components, they are unable to keep their form.
A new dielectric elastomer has been developed by researchers at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard that can work with low-voltage, offers a better range of motion and doesn’t require rigid components.