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This paper deals with a comparative study on using water and air as actuation means for the control of a fluidic muscle (designed for air) and assesses the performance, particularly from a dynamic and energetic point of view. A medium with higher bulk modulus such as oil/water is believed to increase pressure and force bandwidths and reduce sensitivity to load variations, as is the case with conventional hydraulic stiff actuation systems. However in this application the inherent flexibility of the muscle plays a major role. Water has been chosen because of its non-flammability, environmental friendliness and the low solubility of air in it. The operating pressure range of the pneumatic muscle is 0-6 bar (typical range of a pneumatic system) that is well below typical operating pressures of hydraulic systems (typically over 100 bar). At such low pressures the dynamic behaviour of water is less predictable because of the higher likelihood of entrapped air in the water which physically occurs when operating at low pressures. This can majorly affect water bulk modulus and hence its dynamic performance. Therefore, the behaviour of the system in this unconventional pressure range for a liquid must be more thoroughly investigated. Theoretical and experimental analyses on a dedicated test rig have been carried out to assess these assumptions.
Date of Conference: 18-22 Oct. 2010