Scientists are developing self-healing robots that can feel pain, sense damage, and even repair themselves without any human intervention. The soft robotic hands are made through 3D printing and able to carry out a wide variety of applications, from grabbing delicate and soft objects in the food industry to performing minimally invasive surgery. They could also play an important role in creating lifelike prosthetics. However, the soft materials also make them susceptible to damage from sharp objects or excessive pressure. But now researchers have developed new polymers that can heal themselves, by creating new bonds in 40 minutes, with the end goal making the healing automated.
Along with super-human strength and the ability to look great in chrome, robots can now add another talent to their box of tricks: self-healing. Roboticists have long aimed to use soft flexible materials, but these have a propensity to break making them unfit for purpose. A new technique can create soft robots that heal themselves when things go wrong. To prove the concept, researchers at the Free University of Brussels (VUB) in Belgium created a gripper, a robot hand and an artificial muscle, all with the ability to self-heal, out of rubbery polymers that look a bit like jelly. When ripped or cut they can knit back together completely.
Cutting your hand, tearing a muscle, or even breaking a bone are all injuries that will heal over time. Now experts have created a synthetic skin that aims to mimic nature's self-repairing abilities, allowing robots to recover from'wounds' sustained while undertaking their duties. Further development of the technology could also allow Terminator-style killer robots, built for the battlefield, to repair the damage they sustain in combat. Cutting your hand, tearing a muscle, or even breaking a bone are all injuries that will heal over time. Now experts have created a synthetic skin (pictured on robotic hand) that aims to mimic nature's self-repairing abilities To create their synthetic flesh, the scientists used jelly-like polymers that melt into each together when heated and then cooled.
The BBC's Circular Economy series highlights the ways we are designing systems to reduce the waste modern society generates, by reusing and repurposing products. This week we look at the prospects for hi-tech materials that can heal themselves. You don't have to be a liquid metal cyborg assassin from Terminator 2 to know that the ability to self-heal can be pretty useful. After all, our bodies do it all the time, so what if our phones, prone to cracks and scratches, could do it too? In January, tech giant Samsung filed a patent for an "anti-fingerprinting composition having a self-healing property" and there's been speculation that such a coating might give its next smartphone the S10, which comes out in early 2019, the ability to self-heal small scratches too.
When you pull a muscle, it may hurt like heck for a while, but the human body can heal. The same is not true of the electrically-responsive polymers used to make artificial muscles for haptic systems and experimental robots. When they get cut or punctured, it's game over. A new polymer that's super stretchy and self-healing can act as a more resilient artificial muscle material. Created by a team led by Stanford University materials scientist Zhenan Bao, the polymer has an unusual combination of properties.