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MSE Graduate Student Benjamin MacMurray

MSE Graduate Student, Benjamin Mac Murray (Shepherd Lab) had his presentation at Spring MRS meeting featured in the MRS “Meeting Scene”

Symposium SM2: Bioinspired Dynamic Materials – Synthesis, Engineering and Applications

Benjamin Mac Murray, Cornell University

Tunable elastomer foams for simple fabrication of complex, bioinspired soft machines

Written by Devesh Mistry

Benjamin Mac Murray at Cornell University has been investigating bioinspired, pneumatically actuated soft machines. By constructing airtight soft structures, he has been able to produce walkers which can move in a bio-like fashion. A limitation of these walkers is that they can only be fabricated as two-dimensional structures.

Going one step further, Mac Murray has looked to produce much more complex devices, with native three-dimensional structures. By using porous, elastomer foams encased in airtight elastomers, Mac Murray has produced strong and moldable shapes, capable of actuation.

To demonstrate the potential of this technology, Mac Murray produced an artificial heart. As the soft foam actuators of each chamber were alternatively inflated, a pulsating flow was produced. Significantly, the actuators can be driven at frequencies matching the human heart and with flow pressures which match human blood pressures. However, more work is required as the flow rate can only reach one-tenth of the blood flow rate in a human.

Mac Murray also demonstrated the technology as a customizable “glove” for a failing human heart. Such a device could save the lives of those requiring a heart transplant but whom may not live long enough for a suitable donor heart to become available.

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