Prof. Cacucciolo will give the public talk at 4 pm in the conference room of Mathematikon (INF 250, 5th floor)

Title: Solid-State Soft Pumps for Electrically driven Artificial Muscles, Soft Robots, and Active Textiles

Abstract: Electro-active robotic materials produce force/motion/temperature change in response to an electrical stimulus (example artificial muscles) and generate electrical signals in response to physical stimuli (soft sensors). Fluid pressure and fluid circulation are essential tools to build such devices. Fluids are ubiquitously used in engineering to cool-down or heat-up machines, create motion, lift weights. Fluid-driven active wearables can be used for muscular support, haptic feedback, thermal management. My work has focused on technologies to miniaturize fluidics to use it in autonomous and wearables robots. Our solid-state pumps solve the challenge of integrating fluid circulation in soft robots and wearables, replacing noisy and bulk pumps and compressors with stretchable or fiber-shaped pumps. I will present our work on understanding ElectroHydroDynamics pumping and selecting materials and geometries to build pumps that are silent, compact (1 g weight) and all made of soft materials. I will then discuss how these pumps can be connected with soft actuators and used to power untethered robotic systems. Similar to circulation systems in humans and animals, these solid-state pumps bring the wide capabilities of fluids to the next generation of intelligent robots and wearables.

About the speaker: Vito is an Associate Professor at Politecnico di Bari (Italy) and a researcher at MIT (US), as well as the CEO of the spin-off Omnigrasp Srl. Vito’s work focuses on advancing soft-matter machines and robotic materials for human-centric robotics. Vito obtained his Ph.D. in 2017 from Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna Pisa (Italy) working on bio-inspired soft robotics. From 017 to 2021, he worked as a scientist at EPFL in Switzerland, developing miniaturized artificial muscles. Vito’s research on solid-state soft pumps, published on Nature in 2019 and on Science in 2023, advances the integration of fluidics into robots and wearables by replacing bulky pumps with silent, polymer-based ones. This research sets the base for the project ROBOFLUID, which has been awarded the ERC Starting grant by the European Research Council in 2023. Vito published 19 journal articles and 14 articles in conference proceedings, has an h-index of 17 and over 3300 citations.