Just as people can recover fully from cuts, fractures or torn muscles, robots can be given the capacity to heal themselves: researchers at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB – Brussels Free University) have, in fact, succeeded in creating self-healing robots. The results of their research were published in a study titled ‘Self-healing soft pneumatic robots’, published on Wednesday in the Science Robotics magazine.
The scientists worked on robots made of flexible materials that can be used for grasping delicate objects in the food industry or for non-invasive surgical operations. However, because they are malleable, they can be damaged by sharp objects or excessive pressure. The damaged parts then have to be replaced, otherwise the entire robot has to be dumped.
Under a European project led by the VUB, the scientists developed soft, flexible robots made from rubber polymers that can heal themselves. The self-healing capacity is integrated into three components: an artificial claw, hand and muscle. These prototypes were realistically damaged by the researchers and, after a healing process, they were able to carry out their tasks once more with no trace of deterioration.
“The robots can not only be lighter and safer, but they will also be able to work longer in an independent manner, without needing constant repairs,” said VUB professor Bram Vanderborght.