headshot of Benjamin Hatton

Professor Benjamin Hatton receives Connaught Innovation Award

With inspiration often drawn from biological materials, such as plant leaves, fish scales and insect wings, Professor Benjamin Hatton and his team are interested in developing new materials with unique surfaces that can actively change their properties in response to stimuli.

Now, Professor Hatton of the department of materials science and engineering in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering has received a Connaught Innovation Award for developing robotic grippers inspired by octopus suckers.

His fascination with the ability of an octopus to regulate the grip of its tentacles inspired the invention of smart pads that can be digitally controlled for dynamic adhesion. The researchers are able to move microscale surface features on the small pad to mimic the on-off adhesion of individual octopus suckers.

“We are hoping the smart ‘finger pads’ can help robotic grippers grasp more efficiently,” says Hatton. “Current gripper designs, such as prosthetic hands, have limited control at the material surface, which generally leads to objects slipping or being crushed.”

Hatton and his team plan to use these smart pads to increase sensitivity and dynamic control of robotic grippers. Connaught Innovation Award funding will allow his team to integrate their work into technological applications within industry, and on a larger scale.

Read the U of T Engineering story