Imaging, mechanics, and control of active, architected fibers

with Noel Naughton,  University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Monday, February 6th, 2023 at 10:30am
117 Randolph Hall

The architected combination of fibers belies remarkable complexity, with fibers’ passive interactions giving rise to unique and non-linear mechanical behaviors. Active fibers, such as muscles, only compound this complexity while simultaneous enabling fundamental mechanical capabilities that are widely exploited by biology across both length scales and taxa, from plant fibrils to elephant trunks. While passive fibers have long been studied, the role of active fibers in both healthcare and engineering applications is only beginning to be explore and many questions remain. Crucially, our understanding is currently limited by a lack of non-invasive imaging modalities and mechanical modeling tools capable of elucidating how the structural architecture of active fibers enables their functional capabilities. In this talk, I will present recent progress on the use of Cosserat rods to mechanically model the compliant mechanics and control strategies of octopus arms and of diffusion MRI techniques to non-invasively estimate the architectural and microstructural organization of muscle fibers. I will show how the biomechanics of both octopuses and snakes can yield new insights into soft robotic control and how learning-based and neuromorphic control algorithms can be employed to realize these strategies. I will conclude by discussing future prospects for the integration of imaging and mechanical modeling of fibrous tissues in healthcare applications and the role of biomimetic design in the development of next-generation soft robots.

Noel Naughton is a Beckman postdoctoral fellow in the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. His current research explores the intersection of non-invasive medical imaging and mechanical modeling of active fibrous structures in both healthcare and biology and the translation of insights gleaned to soft robotic applications. Noel received his Ph.D. and M.S. in Mechanical Science and Engineering from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where he was an NSF graduate research fellow and his B.S. from the University of Saint Thomas in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Host: Professor Saied Taheri