Empa Center for Synergetic Structures

Dübendorf, Switzerland

Empa Center for Synergetic Structures

Dübendorf, Switzerland
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Fuchslin R.M.,University of Zürich | Dzyakanchuk A.,Performance Technology | Flumini D.,ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences | Hauser H.,University of Zürich | And 5 more authors.
Artificial Life | Year: 2013

Morphological computation can be loosely defined as the exploitation of the shape, material properties, and physical dynamics of a physical system to improve the efficiency of a computation. Morphological control is the application of morphological computing to a control task. In its theoretical part, this article sharpens and extends these definitions by suggesting new formalized definitions and identifying areas in which the definitions we propose are still inadequate. We go on to describe three ongoing studies, in which we are applying morphological control to problems in medicine and in chemistry. The first involves an inflatable support system for patients with impaired movement, and is based on macroscopic physics and concepts already tested in robotics. The two other case studies (self-assembly of chemical microreactors; models of induced cell repair in radio-oncology) describe processes and devices on the micrometer scale, in which the emergent dynamics of the underlying physical system (e.g., phase transitions) are dominated by stochastic processes such as diffusion. © 2013 Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Luchsinger R.H.,Empa Center for Synergetic Structures
Green Energy and Technology | Year: 2013

Simple analytical models for a pumping cycle kite power system are presented. The theory of crosswind kite power is extended to include both the traction and retraction phase of a pumping cycle kite power system. Dimensionless force factors for the reel out and reel in phase are introduced which describe the efficiency of the system. The optimal reel out and reel in speed of the winch is derived where the cycle power becomes maximal. These optimal speeds are solely determined by the ratio of the force factors. Scenarios for wind speeds higher than the nominal wind speed are considered and power curves for the pumping cycle kite power system derived. The average annual power for a given wind distribution function allows to estimate the annual energy production of the pumping cycle kite power system. The role of the elevation angle of the tether is highlighted and a simple model to demonstrate the influence of the kite mass on the power output is discussed. © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013.


Gohl F.,Empa Center for Synergetic Structures | Luchsinger R.H.,Empa Center for Synergetic Structures
Green Energy and Technology | Year: 2013

A framework for simulating tethered wings for kite power is presented. The simulation tool contains a detailed aerodynamic model and a realistic tether model. With the aerodynamic tool, two different wings are analyzed regarding their efficiency. The aerodynamic efficiency of kites is determined with a parameter study showing the trends of the most important geometrical parameters. Those wings are manually flown in the simulator and the flight behavior is discussed. Finally, power cycles of a pumping system are simulated and controlled automatically and results are compared. © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013.


Fuchslin R.M.,University of Zürich | Fuchslin R.M.,European Center for Living Technology | Dumont E.,University of Zürich | Flumini D.,University of Zürich | And 8 more authors.
JBIS - Journal of the British Interplanetary Society | Year: 2014

Designing robots for applications in space flight requires a different prioritization of design criteria than for systems operating on Earth. In this article, we argue that the field of soft robotics offers novel approaches meeting the specific requirements of space flight. We present one especially promising construction principle, so called Tensairity, in some detail. Tensairity, as the name suggests, takes ideas from Tensegrity, but uses inflatable structures instead of cables and struts. Soft robots pose substantial challenges with respect to control. One way to meet these challenges is given by the concept of morphological computation and control. Morphological computation can be loosely defined as the exploitation of the shape, material properties, and dynamics of a physical system to improve the efficiency of computation and to deal with systems for which it is difficult to construct a virtual representation using a kinematic model. We discuss fundamental aspects of morphological control and their relevance for space flight. Besides low weight, small consumption of space in the inactive state and advantageous properties with respect to intrinsic safety and energy consumption, we discuss how the blurring of the discrimination of hard- and software leads to control strategies that require only very little and very simple electronic circuitry (which is beneficial in an environment with high irradiation). Finally, we present a research strategy that bundles activities in space flight with research and development in medicine, especially for support systems for an aging population, that are faced with similar morphological computing challenges to astronauts. Such a combination meets the demands for research that is not only effective, but also efficient with respect to economic resources.

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