These soft robots heal from their wounds when heat is added

The body’s ability to regenerate itself when it suffers various scrapes and abrasions is one of the most important tools we have, allowing us to live long and healthy lives. Up until the present, however, it is not a trait that’s been shared by robots. That could be changing, thanks to research coming out Belgium’s Vrije Universiteit Brussel. What engineers there have developed is a new self-healing material designed for allowing soft robots to overcome injuries, such as those inflicted by a knife.

“Baymax, the inflatable robot in the Walt Disney movie Big Hero 6 was a soft robot,” professor Bram Vanderborght, from the university’s robotics and multibody mechanics research group, told Digital Trends. “In the movie, this robot got damaged and repairs itself in the police station with tape. Were he built out of [our] self-healing material, he would have been able to repair himself like animals and humans can do.”

The breakthrough material will not just make existing robots far easier to repair, but could also have a fundamental impact on how future robots are designed and built — since making them extra large and heavy duty to avoid suffering damage will not be so much of a necessity.

self healing robots heat screen shot 2017 08 17 at 20 41

The material developed by the researchers is a jelly-like polymer. When it is heated up for 40 minutes at a temperature of 176 degrees Fahrenheit, a so-called “Diels-Alder” reaction takes place and the material repairs itself by melding together. After a 24-hour period at room temperature, the robot’s strength and flexibility are then restored. The material has so far been tested on a robot gripper that is used for picking up objects, an artificial muscle, and a robot hand. In all cases, the damage was healed completely after a full day, without any weak spots present.

An article describing the research was published in Science Robotics Journal.

“We think [there are] many possibilities,” Vanderborght said, concerning the researchers’ plans going forward. “This includes new fabrication technologies like printing, adding sensor network to detect health status and intelligence to control the device and new materials.”

While this is very much a proof-of-concept right now, we can only imagine the results that could be achieved were material like this to be combined with the robot, developed by researchers from Pierre and Marie Curie University and the University of Wyoming, that is able to work out how to continue moving even after being badly damaged.

Our only question now is whether there is going to come a point in history when we question the wisdom of building robots able to repair themselves. Somewhere in the future Terminator’s John Connor is probably yelling at us.

Emerging Tech

NASA is building an inflatable space robot named King Louie

NASA is funding an inflatable robot called King Louie which could travel to the stars in deflated form and then be blown up when and where required. Here is why that's so exciting.
Movies & TV

Two Toy Story spinoffs schedule playdates with the Disney Plus streaming service

Disney's direct-to-consumer streaming video service Disney Plus will launch with an impressive catalog of classic content, new projects, and original shows and movies. Here is everything confirmed and rumored to be coming to the platform.

Having PS4 problems? Check out our solutions to its most common issues

Just because the PlayStation 4 is a remarkable system doesn't mean that it's immune to the occasional hiccup. Lucky for you, we've vetted some of the bigger PS4 problems and found solutions for whatever might ail you.
Emerging Tech

Blue the robot could help fold clothes or unload your dishes for under $5,000

Ever dreamed of having your very own helper robot? Roboticists from UC Berkeley have created a new robot to help unpack your dishwasher or fold your clothes. All for under $5,000, too!
Emerging Tech

How MIT hacked horticulture to cultivate a hyper-flavorful basil plant

At MIT, Caleb Harper used his personal food computers to alter the climate in which he grew basil. Exposing it light for 24 hours a day changed the flavor profile of the plant, making it spicier and stronger.
Emerging Tech

Sweden is building a road that recharges electric buses that drive over it

The Swedish transport administration is exploring special roads which will charge vehicles’ batteries as they drive over them. It will test the idea with a short sample stretch of road.
Emerging Tech

Scientists manage to 3D print an actual heart using human cells

Scientists at Tel Aviv University have achieved a world-first by 3D printing a small-scale heart, complete with blood vessels, ventricles, and chambers. Here's why that's so exciting.
Emerging Tech

Drown out noisy neighbors and rest easy with these white noise machines

Some people are more sensitive to sound during sleep than others. Luckily, there are a number of white noise machines on the market to mask the noise. Here are our five of our current favorites.
Emerging Tech

Feast your eyes on the wildest, most elaborate Rube Goldberg machines ever built

Want to see something totally mesmerizing? Check out several of the best Rube Goldberg machines from across the internet, including one that serves cake and others that do ... nothing particularly useful.
Emerging Tech

Watch a pack of SpotMini robot dogs perform a terrifying feat of strength

Boston Dynamics' SpotMini robotic dog is now going around in packs, and the results are somewhat concerning. Check out the video to see what kind of shenanigans 10 of them got up to recently ...
Emerging Tech

Notre Dame fire: How drones and a robot called Colossus helped limit the damage

The fire that devastated the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday shocked many around the world. In a bid to prevent even worse damage to the structure, Paris firefighters opted to deploy drones and a robot called Colossus.
Emerging Tech

New gunfire-detection system alerts police of shooters in seconds, not minutes

The Safe Zone Gunfire Detector is a fast gunfire-detection system that could help avert potential tragedies in public places like schools, malls, or anywhere a mass shooting might occur.
Emerging Tech

NASA chooses a special spot for its next crewed moon landing

Following the U.S. government's announcement last month of a desire to see American astronauts set foot on the moon again in the next five years, NASA has revealed a location on the lunar surface where it would most like to land.
Emerging Tech

Adidas has created a running shoe that’s made to be remade

Adidas has unveiled the Futurecraft Loop running shoe that it claims is the first performance footwear to be 100% recyclable. The shoe is the latest green initiative by the sportswear company and will go on sale in 2021.