Welcome to the Monolithic Systems Lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Prof. Girish Krishnan directs this lab. The lab develops synthesis, analysis and manufacturing tools to realize soft and compliant mechanical systems.

Why Monolithic?
Just as computers and mobile phones, robots will enter the personal realm in the next decade. Already, we see several robots within the human space in rehabilitation, assistive devices, home appliances etc with an estimated market share of $30 billion globally. These applications have warranted new challenges in achieving safe human interaction, manufacturability at all length scales, compact packaging and high overall power to weight ratio. Traditional engineering designs with a plurality of rigid links, joints and interfaces, though strong and robust, fall short of meeting some of these needs. As an alternative, nature’s designs such as plants (Eg. flexible wheat stems) and invertebrates (Eg. Octopus tentacles) that are compliant, monolithic and yet strong need to be evaluated as next generation robotic elements. Compliance and strength may seem antithetic, but are simultaneously achieved in nature. The video below shows a battle between a shark, which has a rigid backbone and an octopus. Guess who wins!!!

Video of shark vs octopus (National Geographic)

Thus monolithic systems lab use the principles of distributed compliance and elastofluidics to yield unprecedented advantages in mechanical engineering systems: specifically the use of material elasticity and a combination of fluids, fibers and elastomeric surfaces to yield complex in these species through interplay of incompressible fluids, muscles, inextensible/extensible fibers and hyperelastic membranes that contain them.

The monolithic systems lab develops design synthesis rules to translate distributed compliance and elastofluidics in several applications such as: wearable robots, human-safe robots, medical devices, micro-scale mechanisms, inflatable devices, and active materials amenable for additive manufacturing. Please read on to learn more about the journey of monolithic systems lab.