CAREER: Transformation Elastodynamics and its Application to Wave Control in Solids (NSF; #1554033) (2016-2021)

This Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) project supports fundamental research needed to realize mechanisms of control of waves in solids. Information and energy in the world travel from one point to another in the form of waves. Examples include electromagnetic waves such as light and radio waves, sound waves in air and water, and elastic waves in solids. The ability to control the flow of these waves, therefore, indirectly leads to the ability to control the information and energy which these waves represent. Strong material design mechanisms have recently been developed to control the flow of electromagnetic and acoustic waves. However, controlling waves in solids has proven to be more difficult, and resolving associated challenges is the main focus of this project. This research will have beneficial impact on several U.S. economic, security, and energy interests. It will lead to improvements in the design of vibration sensors, transducers, and imaging devices with applications to various industries such as aerospace, automobile, civil infrastructure.

Collaborative Research: Accurate Determination of Acoustic Wave Sources using Periodic Microstructured Materials (NSF; #1825354) (2018-2021)

The goal of this project is to exploit the dynamic behavior of microstructured periodic materials to accurately locate the sources of sound waves. The traditional method of identifying source location is using phased array sensors whose precision is limited by the size of the sensor in comparison with the wavelength of acoustic waves. This research will aim to use the vibrational properties of periodic composites to improve determination of source location. The principles developed will have direct application to radar and associated technologies in both defense and civil applications. This research is being done in collaboration with Prof. Alireza Amirkhizi from UML.

EFRI C3 SoRo: Design Principles for Soft Robots Based on Boundary Constrained Granular Swarms (NSF; #1830939) (2018-2022)

This project will develop the framework to understand the modeling, sensing, control, design, and fabrication of a new class of soft robots. Most soft robots eschew the rigid links of traditional robots in favor of compliant structures. In contrast, the robot designed in this work has its “softness” emerge from the interactions among granular material encased in a flexible membrane. The concept is best visualized by considering an amoeba, in which an outer membrane loosely encapsulates a set of internal components. By allowing components on the periphery of the membrane to be active “sub-robots,” much like the cilia on the periphery of a paramecium, the overall structure can move and deform like a boundary-constrained robotic swarm. Moreover, to manipulate objects and exert large forces on the environment, the robot will also have the unique ability to jam. Jamming occurs when particles become packed so closely that instead of flowing past each other (like coffee grounds in a can) they form a solid (like coffee grounds in a vacuum-packed bag). The results of this work may offer several advantages over traditional robots, including the ability to better conform to objects, physically interact with other soft structures such as animal tissue, and locomote in unstructured environments. This research is being done in collaboration with the Robotics lab at IIT (PI: Prof. Matthew Spenko), the Jaeger lab at University of Chicago (PI: Heinrich Jaeger), and the Murugan lab at University of Chicago (PI: Arvind Murugan).