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Robot, Heal Thyself: Scientists Develop Self-Repairing Machines


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The soft robotic hands are gentle enough to handle soft fruit such as strawberries.

A European Commission-funded project aims to create robots that can feel pain, or sense damage, before patching themselves up without human intervention.

Credit: Bram Vanderborght

From picking fruit to carrying out minor surgery, soft robotic hands made from jelly-like plastic are thought by scientists to be the future solution to many human needs.

But being gentle and soft enough to avoid damaging fruit or flesh has made the robots prone to damage and left them largely impractical for use in the real world–until now.

A European Commission-funded project, led by scientists at the Free University of Brussels and the University of Cambridge, aims to create "self-healing" robots that can feel pain, or sense damage, before swiftly patching themselves up without human intervention.

The researchers have already successfully developed polymers that can heal themselves by creating new bonds after about 40 minutes.

The next step will be to embed sensor fibres in the polymer which can detect where the damage is located.

The end goal is to make the healing automated, avoiding the current need for heat to activate the system, through the touch of a human hand.

 

From The Guardian (U.K.)
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