Soft Robotics

From Intelligent Materials and Systems Lab

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Miniature energy-autonomous robots with soft actuators

Our vision and goal

Soft robotics bridges life and robotics. Soft robots demonstrate qualities similar to natural beings, thus allowing to automate tasks previously considered exclusive for humans and other living nature. We design a framework for robots with natural-like interactions with unstructured environments and with delicate objects such as human bodies. First, we develop novel electroactive materials as robotic actuators and sensors. Next, we identify and implement function-specific movement mechanisms that are effective and specific for shape-morphing materials and structures, often finding inspiration from the nature. Finally, we develop applications in the fields of personal medicine, minimally invasive medical instruments, wearable devices, surveillance and rescue.


  • UT was first to demonstrate power-autonomous terrestrial robots propelled by artificial muscles
  • We have developed a method for building ionic artificial muscles on textile substrate
  • We can build soft laminated materials that actuate and sense motion


We develop soft robots in three stages

  1. New bottom-up fabrication methods for robotic materials
  2. Tailoring the interactions between the robotic materials and the environment
  3. Prototyping of soft electro-ionic devices

Tools we use

  • Additive fabrication methods for building soft electroactive laminates
  • Electrochemical and electromechanical impedance spectroscopy
  • Microelectronic control of soft actuators


  • Customized spray-coating set-up
  • Electromechanical testbenches with full electronic control
  • Computer vision set-up for robotics materials characterization
  • In-situ characterization of robotic materials using scanning electron microscopy
  • Dynamic mechanical analysis of robotic materials in a controlled atmosphere
  • Thermal imaging of robot's action

Primary contacts

Indrek Mustassociate professor
Alvo Aablooprofessor, head of the lab

Some completed student projects

  • A self-rolling wheel based on artificial muscles
  • An insect-inspored walking robot with artificial muscles
  • Spray-fabrication of artificial muscles on glass fiber cloth
  • Measurement device for characterization of mechano-sensing laminates
  • Measurement device for mechanical properties of soft laminates

Possible topics for students' projects

List of currently active and timely projects are here


Research Projects


Selected Publications

Must, Indrek, et al. "Ionic and capacitive artificial muscle for biomimetic soft robotics." Advanced Engineering Materials 17.1 (2015): 84-94.]

Kaasik, Friedrich, et al. "Scalable fabrication of ionic and capacitive laminate actuators for soft robotics." Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical 246 (2017): 154-163.]