About The Lab

Welcome to the homepage of the MERGe Lab, where we are working on making Materials Embody Robots, Geometrically. We are located at UT Austin’s Electrical and Computer Engineering department and led by Professor Lillian Chin. We merge ideas across disciplines and see what interesting robots emerge as a result.

We are actively looking for graduate students and postdocs for the 2024-2025 school year. If interested, please apply directly to UT Austin ECE, listing Professor Lillian Chin’s name, and contact her directly explaining what research interests we share. The more specific, the better!

Our key research approach is designing a material’s geometry for robotic functionality. Taking cues from developments in mechanical metamaterials / architected materials, we recognize that designing a material’s geometry has significant downstream effects on the material’s mechanical behavior – and, thus, the robot’s end performance.

This materials and geometry based approach has been really effective in creating unique and effective robot designs. Our systems have outperformed similar soft robots in power efficiency (20x more efficient) and speed (2x faster), outperformed similar modular robots in locomotion (10x faster) while maintaining a high strength-weight ratio (76x), and created the largest sensorized soft robotic dataset (18 hours).

Moving forward, we are interested in pursuing the following research directions:

  1. Design of novel actuators and sensors through geometry
  2. Algorithmic frameworks to generate mechanisms for custom mechanical properties
  3. Robot manipulation enhanced through accurate force and tactile sensing
  4. Participatory design-based robot deployment in real-world communities

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