Amal El-Ghazaly receives alumni award to improve sensors for soft robots

The President’s Council of Cornell Women has awarded a PCCW Affinito-Stewart Grant to ECE Assistant Professor Amal El-Ghazaly for her proposal titled “Highly Stretchable Pressure and Curvature Sensor for Soft Robots.”

The proposed research aims to develop a stretchable material-based sensor array to provide soft robots with a high-resolution sense of “touch.” When soft robots (which are filled with air) touch an external object, air within the body is displaced and puts internal pressure on other surfaces of the robot in addition to the point of contact. These two simultaneous pressures on the surface of the robot are indistinguishable from each other and can be confused.

“We are designing and building a sensor to differentiate these two,” El-Ghazaly said. “It measures the pressure but also curvature. Detecting the curvature tells the robot if it's an external object exerting the pressure, or just the internal air of the robot itself.”

El-Ghazaly’s research aims to develop an elastomer-based high-resolution capacitive touch sensor array by embedding ferroelectric particles and liquid metal electrodes into the soft robot “skin” to sense both pressure and curvature. The award from the Affinito-Stewart Grant program will help advance the work in a meaningful way.

“This funding comes at a particularly crucial time for our research,” El-Ghazaly said. “Tzu-Yun Hsu, the Ph.D. student supported by these funds, is very close to finishing experiments on these sensors and publishing the results, so this summer's funding was pivotal to her success.”

The Affinito-Stewart Grants program was established in 1990 to increase Cornell’s retention of women faculty and faculty conducting research and scholarship into women’s issues and advancement. Affinito-Stewart & PCCW grants support non-tenured Cornell women faculty as well as other faculty (associate and assistant ranks, both men and women) engaged in research and scholarship relating to women’s issues and the advancement of women in completing research already underway or in initiating new research projects that will provide the evidence of scholarship necessary for successful tenure submission.

The recipients receive seed funding for research and other academic projects critical to the tenure process to advance Cornell junior women faculty and promote the long-term retention of women faculty.

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