Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Engineering Science


Electrical and Computer Engineering


Dr. Ana Luisa Trejos


Paralysis or loss of strength resulting from stroke requires patients to undergo extensive rehabilitation therapy. It is known that intensive therapy contributes significantly to recovery, but as the number of surviving stroke patients increases, it is difficult for clinics to provide patients with the optimal level of therapy. Robotic devices for wrist rehabilitation have been developed to lessen these problems, but at the moment they are physically large and must be used within a clinical setting. More benefit could be obtained if the devices were portable, so that they could be used by the patients on a daily basis. To reduce the size of these devices, other means of actuation need to be considered, as currently DC motors and the required transmission are too large and heavy. Dielectric elastomer actuators (DEAs) may provide a solution to the actuation problem.

The focus of this thesis was to compare DC motors with DEAs for use in a wearable wrist exoskeleton to assist with stroke rehabilitation. A simple setup of the forearm, wrist, and hand was developed for testing DC motors and DEAs. For testing the DC motors, kinematic and dynamic models of the arm were created to develop an inverse dynamics controller used to control the movement of the hand. DEAs were fabricated and tested to determine their capabilities in terms of force and range of motion. Based on the data collected, an electromechanical model was optimized to characterize the behavior of the DEAs.

The results show that a single DEA strip is not capable of providing the force or range of motion required for a wearable wrist exoskeleton. Future work can be done to improve DEA design so that they may actuate a wearable wrist exoskeleton or could also be considered for use in other wearable rehabilitation devices.