Self-sensing cellulose structures with design-controlled stiffness

Fabian Wiesemuller, Crystal Winston, Alexandre Poulin, Xavier Aeby, Aslan Miriyev, Thomas Geiger, Gustav Nystrom, Mirko Kovac

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Robots are often used for sensing and sampling in natural environments. Within this area, soft robots have become increasingly popular for these tasks because their mechanical compliance makes them safer to interact with. Unfortunately, if these robots break while working in vulnerable environments, they create potentially hazardous waste. Consequently, the development of compliant, biodegradable structures for soft, eco-robots is a relevant research area that we explore here. Cellulose is one of the most abundant biodegradable materials on earth, but it is naturally very stiff, which makes it difficult to use in soft robots. Here, we look at both biologically and kirigami inspired structures that can be used to reduce the stiffness of cellulose based parts for soft robots up to a factor of 19 000. To demonstrate this, we build a compliant force and displacement sensing structure from microfibrillated cellulose. We also describe a novel manufacturing technique for these structures, provide mechanical models that allow designers to specify their stiffness, and conclude with a description of our structure's performance.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number9381695
Pages (from-to)4017-4024
Number of pages8
JournalIEEE Robotics and Automation Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Compliant joint/mechanism
  • soft robot materials and design
  • soft sensors and actuators

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Control and Optimization
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications


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