Soft robots are gaining in popularity due to their unique attributes such as low weight, compliance, flexibility and diverse range in motion types. This paper illustrates soft robots and actuators which are developed using dielectric elastomer. These developments include a jellyfish robot, a worm like robot and artificial muscle actuators for jaw movement in a robotic skull. The jellyfish robot which employs a bulged dielectric elastomer membrane has been demonstrated too generate thrust and buoyant forces and can move effectively in water. The artificial muscle for jaw movement employs a pure shear configuration and has been shown to closely mimic the jaw motion while chewing or singing a song. Thee inchworm robot, powered by dielectric elastomer actuator can demonstrate stable movement in one-direction.
Dielectric elastomer actuators have the advantage of mimicking the salient feature of life: movements in response to stimuli. In this paper we explore application of dielectric elastomer actuators to artificial muscles. These artificial muscles can mimic natural masseter to control jaw movements, which are key components in facial expressions especially during talking and singing activities. This paper investigates optimal design of the dielectric elastomer actuator. It is found that the actuator with embedded plastic fibers can avert electromechanical instability and can greatly improve its actuation. Two actuators are then installed in a robotic skull to drive jaw movements, mimicking the masseters in a human jaw. Experiments show that the maximum vertical displacement of the robotic jaw, driven by artificial muscles, is comparable to that of the natural human jaw during speech activities. Theoretical simulations are conducted to analyze the performance of the actuator, which is quantitatively consistent with the experimental observations.