The Power of Soft: KAIST’s Revolutionary Fluid Switch Technology

KAIST Researchers Develop Ultra-Low Power Fluid Switch Using Ionic Polymer Artificial Muscles

In a world where soft robots, medical devices, and wearable devices are becoming ubiquitous, researchers at KAIST have made a breakthrough. They’ve developed a fluid switch using ionic polymer artificial muscles that operates at ultra-low power and produces a force 34 times greater than its weight. This development opens up new possibilities for the fields of soft robotics, soft electronics, and microfluidics based on fluid control.

The research team, led by Professor IlKwon Oh from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, created an electro-ionic soft actuator that can control fluid flow while producing large amounts of force, even in a narrow pipe, and used it as a soft fluidic switch.

The ionic polymer artificial muscle, which is as thin as a hair with a thickness of 180 ┬Ám, is composed of metal electrodes and ionic polymers. It generates force and movement in response to electricity. By using a polysulfonated covalent organic framework (pS-COF) made by combining organic molecules on the surface of the artificial muscle electrode, the researchers were able to make the muscle produce an impressive amount of force relative to its weight with ultra-low power (~0.01V).

Professor IlKwon Oh stated, “The electrochemical soft fluidic switch that operates at ultra-low power can open up many possibilities in the fields of soft robots, soft electronics, and microfluidics based on fluid control.” He added, “From smart fibers to biomedical devices, this technology has the potential to be immediately put to use in a variety of industrial settings as it can be easily applied to ultra-small electronic systems in our daily lives.”

The results of this study, in which Dr. Manmatha Mahato, a research professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at KAIST, participated as the first author, were published in the international academic journal Science Advances on December 13, 2023. This research was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea’s Leader Scientist Support Project (Creative Research Group) and Future Convergence Pioneer Project.

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