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Proceedings Paper

Application requirements of artificial muscles for swimming robots
Author(s): Peter A Kerrebrock; Jamie M Anderson; Joel R. Parry
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Paper Abstract

In the near future, we will find biomimetic undersea robots in the forefront of unmanned underwater applications due to their ability to operate in new, challenging, and highly dynamic environments such as rivers, surf, and turbulent pipe flow. In particular, fish-like vehicles (FLVs) have emerged as a viable technology for highly maneuverable, efficient and stealthy platforms. Attempts to produce fish-like motion using conventional mechanical means have proven difficult, however, resulting in complex and unreliable machines, especially when compared to the simplicity of a rotating propeller and conventional control surfaces. To take full advantage of fish-like propulsion, a new actuation strategy is needed, to which artificial muscles may be uniquely suited. Some artificial muscles are made of materials with relatively low specific gravity (compared to conventional mechanical systems), and so will be nearly neutrally buoyant in underwater applications. This is critical in FLV actuation, as correct longitudinal mass distribution is required to avoid stability problems. Additionally, some artificial muscle formulations require water, sometimes including an electrolyte, which is easily provided in underwater applications. Finally, for stealthy applications, artificial muscles may provide acoustically quiet actuation due to their suppleness and reduced number of interconnecting mechanical components. In this paper, we suggest artificial muscle-based actuation strategies for FLVs, based on experience with the Vorticity Control Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (VCUUV), an eight-foot long autonomous robotic tuna. Recently developed artificial muscles are surveyed and evaluated as to their suitability for fish-like propulsion. Requirements for force, power, and strain as well as implementation issues are discussed.

Paper Details

Date Published: 16 July 2001
PDF: 11 pages
Proc. SPIE 4329, Smart Structures and Materials 2001: Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices, (16 July 2001); doi: 10.1117/12.432686
Show Author Affiliations
Peter A Kerrebrock, Charles Stark Draper Lab., Inc. (United States)
Jamie M Anderson, Charles Stark Draper Lab., Inc. (United States)
Joel R. Parry, Charles Stark Draper Lab., Inc. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 4329:
Smart Structures and Materials 2001: Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices
Yoseph Bar-Cohen, Editor(s)

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