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Bio-Inspired Robotic Cownose Ray Propelled by Electroactive Polymer Pectoral Fin

[+] Author Affiliations
Zheng Chen, Tae I. Um, Jianzhong Zhu, Hilary Bart-Smith

University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA

Paper No. IMECE2011-64174, pp. 817-824; 8 pages
  • ASME 2011 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
  • Volume 2: Biomedical and Biotechnology Engineering; Nanoengineering for Medicine and Biology
  • Denver, Colorado, USA, November 11–17, 2011
  • Conference Sponsors: ASME
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5488-4
  • Copyright © 2011 by ASME


The cownose ray (Rhinoptera bonasus) demonstrates excellent swimming capabilities; generating highly efficient thrust via flapping of dorsally flattened pectoral fins. In this paper, we present a bio-inspired and free swimming robot that mimics the swimming behavior of the cownose ray. The robot has two artificial pectoral fins to generate thrust through a twisted flapping motion. Each artificial pectoral fin consists of one ionic polymer-metal composite (IPMC) as artificial muscle in the leading edge and a passive PDMS membrane in the trailing edge. By applying voltage signal to the IPMC, the passive PDMS membrane follows the bending of IPMC with a phase delay, which leads to a twist angle on the fin. The characterization results have shown that the pectoral fin was able to generate up to 40% tip deflection and 10° twist angle with less than 1 Watt power consumption. A bio-inspired rigid body was designed using Computerized Axial Tomography (CT Scan) data of the cownose ray body and printed using a 3-dimensional printer. A light and compact on-board control unit with a lithium ion polymer battery has been developed for the free swimming robot. Experimental results have shown that the robot swam at 0.034 BL/S.

Copyright © 2011 by ASME



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