Recycling materials in soft robotics

It’s important for all fields to consider their environmental impact, and robotics doesn’t currently have a rich history of research into sustainability. In this recent paper Professor Rossiter, Dr Partridge and Dr Manzini, from our TAS Functionality Node, demonstrate their research into reducing the waste for soft robotics.

The need for soft bodies and actuators in this field leads to the use of large amounts of silicon, rubber and other elastomers, which isn’t normally recycled. In the paper the authors present a non-chemical process to recycle and reuse these elastomeric materials, which, as well as decreasing the amount the harmful waste, has the extra benefits of minimising the amount of new material needed and lowering costs. The material from old and broken soft actuators was ground into granules ranging from 1mm in diameter to 3mm in diameter and used to create new soft actuators without loss of function. Characterisation tests showed that although some functionality reduced with the percentage of recycled material, the silicone composites exhibited very comparable elastic properties to the pristine silicone.

The authors propose that these materials could then form a pipeline where every time they’re recycled they’re used in lower and lower risk applications. This technique could also help other fields reduce their waste.

Watch this short video to see the research in action:

Access the full paper: ReRobot: Recycled Materials for Trustworthy Soft Robots

And please do leave a comment – we’d love to hear from you!

Trust Me, I’m a Robot!

Event postponement:

This event has been postponed due to a recent fire at the venue. We are working with We The Curious to identify a new date and will update this page when the new date is secured.


Would you trust a parcel-delivering drone? How do swarms of robots collaborate to complete a task? What scares you and excites you the most about living in a world of autonomous systems?

TAS-event-image

Join us for a fun event about robots and trust!

Where: The space above We The Curious museum, 1 Millennium Square, Anchor Road, Harbourside, Bristol, BS1 5DB

When: Postponed date TBC – watch this space!

Who: This event is open to anyone, but is most suitable for adults and children over 12. Anyone under 18 must be accompanied and supervised by a responsible adult.

What: You will take part in activities like flying drones, building your own robotic gripper, playing games about robot swarms and driverless cars, and more. You will have the opportunity to talk to Bristol University researchers who are developing these technologies and discuss the ethical and societal implications of robotics.

Organisers: This event is organised by the Trustworthy Autonomous System Node in Functionality project at the University of Bristol. This project is funded by UK Research and Innovation. The TAS project investigates how autonomous systems with ‘evolving functionality’, which can rapidly adapt to changes in the environment or in the systems themselves without a human controller, should be developed and deployed to be trustworthy.

COVID-19 measures: Please do not come to the event if you have COVID-19 symptoms. Please also do a lateral flow test before attending if you can, and wear a face covering at the event unless you are exempted.

Accessibility: Please let us know in advance if you have any access requirement. The event is wheelchair friendly. Some activities may not be suitable for deaf or hard-to-hear visitors and blind or partially sighted visitors. For more information about accessibility at We The Curious, please check the ‘Access for all’ webpage.

Contact: If you have any questions, please contact Dr Arianna Manzini by email.

Job opportunity: Research Associate in Trustworthy Uncrewed Air Vehicles (UAVs)

This exciting research position sets out to develop flight control systems for Uncrewed Air Vehicles (UAVs) based on machine learning. You will be developing reinforcement learning based flight control systems for micro quadcopters and hybrid flight control systems for morphing wing UAVs. You will then experimentally test and validate these using advanced free flight and wind tunnel testing facilities.

This position is part of the multidisciplinary UKRI Trustworthy Autonomous Systems Node in Functionality which explores how to develop trustworthy adaptive autonomous systems. You will be part of a large multidisciplinary team of researchers from ethics, sociology, computer science and engineering working together to develop design-for-trustworthiness techniques for a wide range of autonomous systems, including swarm robotics, soft robots, and unmanned air vehicles.

The position will be based at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory the largest centre for multidisciplinary research in the UK. This position will also involve close interaction with the Bio-inspired Flight Lab and the Bristol Flight Lab at the University of Bristol.

Visit the University jobs site for full details of the position including how to apply online.

Vacancy summary

Research Associate/Senior Research Associate in Trustworthy Uncrewed Air Vehicles (UAVs) (Job ref. ACAD105941)
Department of Aerospace Engineering, University of Bristol
Salary: £34,304 to £43,434
Closing date: 10 April 2022

For informal enquiries contact: Dr Shane Windsor or Katie Drury