Soft pneumatic actuators based on composites consisting of elastomers with embedded sheet or fiber structures (e.g., paper or fabric) that are flexible but not extensible are described. On pneumatic inflation, these actuators move anisotropically, based on the motions accessible by their composite structures. They are inexpensive, simple to fabricate, light in weight, and easy to actuate. This class of structure is versatile: the same principles of design lead to actuators that respond to pressurization with a wide range of motions (bending, extension, contraction, twisting, and others). Paper, when used to introduce anisotropy into elastomers, can be readily folded into three-dimensional structures following the principles of origami; these folded structures increase the stiffness and anisotropy of the elastomeric actuators, while keeping them light in weight.
STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT
 This invention was made with government support under W911NF-11-1-0094 and W911NF-09-1-0476 awarded by U.S. Department of Defense, and under PHY-0646094 and DMR-0820484 awarded by National Science Foundation, and under DE-FG02-00ER45852 awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy. The United States government has certain rights to this invention.