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Biodegradable Bodies For More Eco-Friendly Robots


A humanoid robot.

Italian scientists are developing materials that will enable robots to biodegrade when they have reached the end of their useful lives.

Credit: Italian Institute of Technology

Scientists in Italy are developing "smart materials" that will enable robots to biodegrade like a human body once they've reached the end of their life span.

Robots currently are made from components largely consisting of plastic and metal, which are difficult to dispose of and contribute to climate change.

The researchers at the Italian Institute of Technology's (IIT) Smart Materials Group are working with substances at the nano level to create new materials that preserve the properties of the individual components, but exhibit characteristics that would not be possible separately. For example, the researchers say their smart materials eventually could replace conventional plastic with a new form of bioplastic made from food waste.

IIT's Athanassia Athanassiou notes robotics would be an important application of the technology. "These biodegradable materials, natural materials, they are very flexible so they can be used for robotic skins," Athanassiou says. "But they can be also very hard so they can be used for internal parts of a robot."

IIT robot researcher Nikos Tsagarakis says materials other than metal will be needed to build the next generation of humanoid robots. "It will help us to make lighter robots, more efficient and, finally, also recyclable," Tsagarakis says.

From Reuters
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