NASA researchers have developed simple, compact, lightweight robotic end effectors with `fingers’ that bend to perform gripping operations.
The fingers are made from an electroactive polymer that bends when a voltage is applied across it, with the direction of the bending dependent upon the polarity of the voltage.
In its experiments, NASA has developed a two finger hand capable of lifting a rod weighing 1.5g and a four finger hand which has lifted a 10.3g rod.
NASA says the electroactive polymer has a number of advantages over electroactive ceramics, including lower weight, and higher actuation strain. They can also be mass produced at a relatively low cost.