Tech Briefs Magazine - February 2022 - 10

5
Who
A system uses combustion to inflate silicone membrane " dots, " which could someday serve as a dynamic braille display
for electronics.
Ws of the Portable
Braille Display
What
Imagine a tablet or Kindle that can
display braille on command for the
visually impaired. The major hurdle
in designing the dynamic display is
how to apply the necessary amount
of force to raise each popup dot.
This system is composed of molded
silicone and microfluidic liquid
metal traces, in which liquid metal
electrodes cause a spark to ignite a
microscale volume of premixed
methane and oxygen. This fuel
flows through a series of independent
channels, each leading to a 3millimeter-wide
actuator. The rapid
combustion forces a thin silicone
membrane at each site to inflate
several
millimeters. A magnetic
latching system gives these dots
A magnetic latching system gives the dots their persistent form and the whole system can
be reset simply by pressing them down. (Photo: Cornell University)
their persistent form, and the whole system can be reset simply by pressing them down. Because there is no need for
electromechanical valves, the actuators can be packed more densely together, resulting in a smaller, potentially
portable system that still manages to produce large displacements at high force in under 1 millisecond. Since the fluidic
elastomer actuators cool quickly, and so little fuel is required, a commercial version could be safely operated.
Where
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.
Why
Earlier attempts have involved motors, hydraulics, or tethered pumps, all of which are cumbersome, complex, and
expensive. Using combustion, small volumes of gas can create a powerful outcome.
When
The current system consists of nine fluidic elastomer actuators, but the researchers are hoping to scale that up and
eventually create a full electronic tactile display. The stretchable technology could also be used for soft robots, surgical
tools, and wearable VR equipment.
10
Contact Abby Butler at ajb493@cornell.edu; 607-254-4799
www.techbriefs.com
Cov
ToC
Tech Briefs, February 2022
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Tech Briefs Magazine - February 2022

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