Robots that feel and heal: They create a material that gives them this ability

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We can look at the mobile that we carry and be surprised at the amount of technology that is inside that 5-6 inch design. But even if we build the replicants of Blade Runner or the divergent androids of Westworld, the most perfect machine will always be the human body.

Androids with skin

In fact, it is so much so, that after a century of Industrial Revolution and 40 years in depth with robotics, the idea of ​​seeing such perfect cyborgs is still (still) a chimera … Although advances in their field are going faster and faster.

The idea we have of an android is that of C-3PO from Star Wars, that of I, Robot, the idea of ​​rigid mechanisms and humanoid designs, not human. Precisely for this reason, scientists are working to ‘de-harden’ them, testing flexible circuits that deform but do not break and they continue to function, and giving more joints to the exoskeletons until they achieve the great mobility that a human being has. But in addition, robotics applies its own advantages.


Fur foam

Researchers from the National University of Singapore They have developed a smart foam material that enables robots to perceive nearby objects and heals itself when damaged, such as human skin. The artificially innervated foam, the AiFoam, is a highly elastic polymer created by mixing a fluoropolymer – a polymer made up of carbon and fluorine – with a compound that reduces surface tension.

According to the researchers, this allows The fluffy material easily melts into one piece when cut. “There are many applications for this material, especially in robotics and prosthetic devices, where robots have to be much smarter when working close to humans.“explained lead researcher Benjamin Tee.

Reproduce human touch

To reproduce the human sense of touch, researchers They mixed the material with microscopic metallic particles and added tiny electrodes under the surface of the foam. When pressure is applied, the metallic particles move closer together within the polymer matrix, changing their electrical properties. These changes can be detected by the electrodes connected to a computer, which in turn tells the robot what to do, Tee explains:

“When I move my finger close to the sensor, you can see that the sensor is measuring the changes in my electric field and responding accordingly to my touch.” This feature allows the robotic hand to detect not only the amount but also the direction of the applied force, which could make robots more intelligent and interactive. “It can also allow prosthetic wearers more intuitive use of their robotic arms when grasping objects.”

The chief investigator noted that AiFoam is the first of its kind It combines self-healing properties with proximity and pressure sensing. After more than two years of development, he and his team hope that the material can be used in practice within five years, by 2026.


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