Manta Ray Bay Hotel and Yap Divers

The Bio-Inspired Engineering Research Laboratory (BIER Lab) is an internationally recognized center for biologically inspired engineering research, with the primary goal of designing an autonomous robotic manta ray. Current research teams are engaged on a broad array of issues related to reverse engineering of biological systems, including: central pattern generator control, active tensegrity structures with integrated actuation, electro-active polymers (artificial skin/muscle), and hydrodynamics.


Tensegrity Structures and Propulsors

Central Pattern Generator Control:
Biologically Inspired Neural Control of Tensegrity Structures and Propulsors

The aim of this research is to integrate neuronal circuits with tensegrity structures for use in bio-inspired aquatic propulsion.


Hydrodynamic Test Platform

Active tensegrity structures with integrated actuation

Active tensegrity systems are used as the structural foundation for replicating kinematics observed in batoid ray pectoral fins. Tensegrity offers large active deformations at a low energetic cost, making them ideal for reproducing biological motions. Current research focuses on structural optimization for application in robotic pectoral fins.




Pectoral Fin Hydrodynamics

The unsteady hydrodynamics of biological swimming is inherently complex, in that the deformations of compliant propulsive surfaces are coupled to local fluid flows. Understanding the fluid-structure interactions (FSI) depends on many types of analyses, including experimental hydrodynamics. The major thrust of this research is to understand through experimental analysis how individual kinematic components of batoid pectoral fin motions produce efficient swimming.



Electro-active polymers

Electro-active polymers
Electroactive polymers (EAPs) are the polymers whose shapes change under electrical stimuli. Since they have built-in actuation and sensing mechanisms, they can be used both as actuators (artificial muscles) and sensors. This research is conducted to explore the potentials of EAPs in bio-inspired engineering. As one example, we are focusing on the development of a robotic batoid ray using ionic polymer-metal composites (IPMCs), which are one type of EAPs, as artificial muscles. It includes fabrication of artificial pectoral fin, body shape design, and control strategy development.