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Department of Mechanical Engineering

Gary Leisk


Machine Design, Non-Destructive Testing

Over the last several years, I have participated in highly interdisciplinary research in two particular thrust areas: tissue engineering and soft-bodied robotics.

Working in collaboration with David Kaplan of the Biomedical Engineering Department, I run a textile facility in which students explore the utilization of 100 year-old and modern custom-designed textile hardware to conceptualize and fabricate new tissue engineering scaffolds.

In addition, I work on new ways to process silk protein to create unique geometries and exploit new properties.

As shown in Figure 1, the silk electrogelation process, developed in my lab, is demonstrated. Through the use of DC voltage, solubilized silk convert to a very sticky gel; a gel which can be converted back to a solution form on demand. Silk egel shows promise for various applications, such as robotics applications in which reversible adhesion is used to climb walls and traverse ceilings.

Examples of soft-bodied robot platforms

As part of a collaborative team in Engineering and Biology, I have explored approaches to designing, constructing, and testing soft-bodied robots that can traverse holes, climb walls, inspect a human colon, and swim underwater.

Unique platforms being pursued include electromagnet-based crawlers and more dynamic inchers/wheeling robots. Using biomimetic principles, the latter exhibits similar "behaviors" to the Mother-of-Pearl caterpillar. Follow-on efforts continue for both biomedical and other civilian and military applications.