Understanding the manufacturing–structure–property relationships of polymer nanocomposites to enable electroadhesive clutches

Principal investigators: Paul Leu, Stuart Diller, and John Watkins

University: University of Pittsburgh

Industry partner: Estat Actuation

The primary objective of this project is to reveal the fundamental process—structure—property relationships of polymer nanocomposites and use this knowledge to manufacture large-area, reliable, high-performance, lightweight clutches. ESTAT Actuation has developed a disruptive clutch technology based on electroadhesives, which are over 10× lighter, 10× more compact, and 1000× more efficient than other clutch technologies. The technology may enable new applications such as artificial muscles, soft robotics, exoskeletons, prosthetics, and wearable devices. This proposal seeks to provide a fundamental understanding of how large-area (30 cm x 30 cm) and reliable (over 3 million engagement/disengagement cycles) clutches may be designed and manufactured by a novel approach of integrating experiments, simulations, and machine learning methods. This integrated framework will be utilized to understand how the local morphology properties of polymer nanocomposites affect large-area performance and how polymer nanocomposites can be designed and manufactured to operate reliably under repeated actuation.