Scientists have developed self-healing, biodegradable, 3D-printed materials. This material can be used in the development of realistic artificial hands. This material can also be used in other soft robotics applications.
University of Cambridge researchers have developed the low-cost jelly-like materials. The material can sense strain, temperature and humidity. It is not like earlier self-healing robots. It can partially repair themselves at room temperature.
The study has been published in the journal NPG Asia Materials.
Soft sensing technologies can transform robotics, tactile interfaces and wearable devices. But most soft sensing technologies aren’t durable. They also consume high amounts of energy.
This study was a part of the EU-funded SHERO project. Scientists have been working to develop soft sensing, self-healing materials for robotic hands and arms. These materials can detect when they are damaged. They can also take the necessary steps to temporarily heal themselves. Then they can resume work. It is all without the need for human interaction.
Earlier versions of the self-healing robots needed to be heated in order to heal. Now scientists have developed materials that can heal at room temperature. This will make them more useful for real-world applications.
Scientists found that printing sensors containing sodium chloride instead of carbon ink resulted in a material with the properties they were looking for. Salt is soluble in the water-filled hydrogel. It provides a uniform channel for ionic conduction. It is the movement of ions.
Scientists measured the electrical resistance of the printed materials. They found that changes in strain resulted in a highly linear response. They can use it to calculate the deformations of the material. Salt enabled sensing of stretches of more than three times the sensor’s original length.
The material can be incorporated into flexible and stretchable robotic devices. The self-healing materials are cheap and easy to make by 3D printing or casting. They are preferable to many existing alternatives. They show long-term strength and stability without drying out. They are made entirely from widely available, food-safe, materials.