The human-like abilities of robots continue to develop at an unprecedented pace – with robots that can run across different types of terrain to a robot dog that could accompany you to work. But now scientists have taken the potential for human-like resemble by creating a self-healing material that will act as an artificial skin.
Researchers at US University Carnegie Mellon have created a supple, stretchy material made of electrical circuits that instantly repairs itself after sustaining extreme physical damage. Not only does the self-healing material make the repairs but also restore severed electrical connections.
Further development of the technology could allow Terminator-inspired robots, built for battlefield, that instantly repair extreme damage to the body.
“This could have important applications in areas like wearable computing, where you want circuits you can incorporate into textiles or place on your skin, and just like natural skin if you get bruised or cut, your skin is able to repair itself,” says Carmel Majidi, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, in a video produced by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). “Our material also has this property.”
“When you, say, cut wiring or puncture it or fracture it, you immediately lose electrical functionality,” he says. “In contrast, our material has the ability to maintain its electrical functionality even when it has been materially damaged.”
The self-healing robot skin is a composite made of liquid metal droplets suspended in an elastic polymer. In response to extreme damage, these liquid metal droplets make new connections with neighboring droplets, rerouting electrical signals. Researchers demonstrated this by making a small crawling robot.
The Carnegie Mellon researchers published their findings in the journal Nature Materials in May. They suggested robots with self-healing skin could be deployed to perform rescues in emergencies. The material could also be used in health-monitoring wearables for athletes in training and in architecture that can withstand extreme conditions on Mars.
In a similar vein, the University of Colorado has produced Boulder’s e-skin with the ability to heal. It’s also one of the first example of an electrically conductive material to heal by itself.
The outcome of these researches is opening up promising perspectives.
Terminator robots might be on the way, so we might as well start churning a sci-fi novel that will one day stand true to the reality our future generation lives in.