Date of Original Version
Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS '07), October, 2007.
Abstract or Table of Contents
A simple and robust inter-module latch is possibly the most important component of a modular robotic system. This paper describes a latch based on electric fields and capacitive coupling. Our design provides not only significant adhesion forces, but can also be used for inter-module power transmission and communication. The key insight presented in this paper, and the factor that enables electrostatic adhesion to be effective at the macroscale, is the use of electric field attraction to generate frictional shear forces rather than electric field attraction alone. A second important insight is that a specific degree of flexibility in the electrodes is essential to maximize their mutual coupling and the resulting forces - electrodes which are too flexible or too rigid will perform less well. To evaluate the effectiveness of our latch we incorporate it into a cubic module 28 cm on a side. The result is a latch which requires almost zero static power and yet can hold 0.6 N/cm2 of latch area.