Swimming like algae: biomimetic soft artificial cilia

Sina Sareh, Jonathan Rossiter, Andrew Conn, Knut Drescher, Raymond E. Goldstein


Cilia are used effectively in a wide variety of biological systems from fluid transport to thrust generation. Here, we present the design and implementation of artificial cilia, based on a biomimetic planar actuator using soft-smart materials. This actuator is modelled on the cilia movement of the alga Volvox, and represents the cilium as a piecewise constant-curvature robotic actuator that enables the subsequent direct translation of natural articulation into a multi-segment ionic polymer metal composite actuator. It is demonstrated how the combination of optimal segmentation pattern and biologically derived per-segment driving signals reproduce natural ciliary motion. The amenability of the artificial cilia to scaling is also demonstrated through the comparison of the Reynolds number achieved with that of natural cilia.

  • Received August 17, 2012.
  • Accepted October 3, 2012.
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