ERC Robofluid: creating wearable robots using digital fluidics to enhance and support human abilities

PI Story 2024
27 June 2024
Start time 
1:00 pm
Polo Ferrari 1 - Via Sommarive 5, Povo (Trento)
Room Garda, floor + 1
Doctoral Program in Information Engineering and Computer Science
Target audience: 
University community
UniTrento students
Free – Registration required
Contact person: 
prof. Giovanni Iacca
Vito Cacucciolo, Politecnico di Bari and Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Wearable soft robots interface the digital world with the physical one. They are made of electro-active materials that produce force/motion/temperature change in response to an electrical stimulus (example artificial muscles) and generate electrical signals in response to physical stimuli (soft sensors). Fluid pressure and fluid circulation are essential tools to build such devices. Fluids are ubiquitously used in engineering to cool-down or heat-up machines, create motion, lift weights. So far fluid circulation could not be used in portable devices due to the bulkiness of pumps and compressors.
The ERC project Robofluid aims at making fluidics digital using solid-state soft pumps. The ability to move fluids directly using electric fields will enable a range of wearable applications such as thermally regulated vests, haptic gloves, textile exoskeletons.

About the speaker

Vito is an Associate Professor at Politecnico di Bari (Italy), a researcher at MIT (US), and the CEO of the spin-off Omnigrasp Srl. Vito’s work focuses on advancing soft-matter machines and robotic materials for human-centric robotics. Vito obtained his Ph.D. in 2017 from Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna Pisa (Italy) working on bio- inspired soft robotics. From 2017 to 2021, he worked as a scientist at EPFL in Switzerland, developing miniaturized artificial muscles. Vito's research on solid-state soft pumps, published on Nature in 2019 and on Science in 2023, advances the integration of fluidics into robots and wearables by replacing bulky pumps with silent, polymer-based ones. This research sets the base for the project ROBOFLUID, which has been awarded the ERC Starting grant by the European Research Council in 2023. Vito published 20 journal articles and 14 articles in conference proceedings, has an h-index of 18 and 3500 citations