Belgian university gets €3 million to develop self-repairing robots

Belgian university gets €3 million to develop self-repairing robots
Self repairing robots would be the purpose of the project. Credit: VUB

The Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) has obtained - along with its partners in Cambridge, Paris and Switzerland - an EU subsidy of up to three million euro for a research project on self-repairing robots, it was learned on Wednesday.

Brubotics, VUB's robotics centre, is running a European research project on so-called "soft" robots. This new generation of robots is made using more flexible materials to enable the easier manipulation of fragile objects and in order to work more seamlessly with human beings.

Nevertheless, because they are soft, they are also subject to cracking and tearing. Repairs take up a lot of time and money. That is why Brubotics, with researchers from the University of Cambridge, the Graduate School of Industrial Physics and Chemistry of the City of Paris (ESPCI-Paris) and the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa), is looking to develop technologies thanks to which robots will be able to repair themselves. The consortium has teamed up with Dutch polymer manufacturer SupraPolix.

In practical terms, the goal is for robots to be able to repair themselves when damaged without human intervention. To do this, a self-healing flexible material is needed that can detect damage and take adequate measures to cure it. The European Commission is supporting the project with up to three million euro.

"In recent years, we have already taken the initial steps towards the creation of self-healing materials for making robots. We wish to further this research and, above all, ensure that robots can be utilised in a sustainable way without endangering our work environments," VUB academic Bram Vanderborght explained. "Thanks to a self-repair mechanism, complex and expensive repairs to this new kind of robot will be a thing of the past."

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