Continuum Robot Proprioception: The Ionic Liquid Approach

David Alatorre, Dragos Axinte, Amir Rabani

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Slender continuum robots are uniquely placed to address inspection and intervention tasks in difficult-to-access environments. Tasks such as minimally invasive surgery and in situ maintenance of complex machinery require dexterous robots with accurate motion control, and benefit from instruments with small diameters and large internal passages for services. Intrinsic proprioception, or built-in position sensory feedback, has been described in prior work on continuum and soft robots but seldom employed for motion closed-loop control. In this research article, we present a novel tubular resistive stretch sensor with ionic liquid conductors to enable closed-loop position control of low-cost, 3-D printed continuum robots. We describe a methodology for sensor characterization and calibration drawing from a model of their behavior under strain, allowing us to apply four stretch sensors as proprioceptive feedback for motion control of a four-axis slender continuum manipulator. We demonstrate a substantial (approximately 65%) improvement in position control accuracy and repeatability over open-loop methods and show a promising step toward low-cost, scalable position feedback for slender continuum robots.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)526-535
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Transactions on Robotics
Issue number1
Early online date7 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished Online - 7 Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Dexterous manipulation
  • Field robots
  • Medical robots and systems
  • Robotics in hazardous fields

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications


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