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Surprise ! Robots now learn to repair themselves

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Innovation in robotics continues! Whether it's the incredible skill of Tesla's Optimus or Icub3, the robot that allows its user to see through its eyes, the sector is in good health. A new frontier in robotics is about to be crossed: the development of robots capable of self-repairafter suffering damage. Strongly inspired by the natural ability of the human body to heal itself, several specialists such as Robert Shepherd of Cornell University or Benjamin Tee of the University of Singapore are working to design robots with damage detection capabilities. and independent repair.

An immense progress, which would improve the durability and efficiency of robots that operate in dangerous environments and in addition to reducing the production of electronic waste.

Autonomy and resilience: a new era for robotics

Au heart of this little revolution: the use of new types of polymersin conjunction with self-repairing electronic systems. Certain techniques (such as the Diels-Alder reaction) allow these polymers to regenerate once damaged.

When this material is damaged, it results in a breakage of bonds (the forces of attraction that hold atoms in molecules or compounds together). Once heated and cooled, this material can then restore them on its own and returns to its initial properties. The video below shows a polymer repairing itself immediately after being cut.

A team of researchers from the Université Libre de Bruxelles led by mechanic Bram Vanderborght have also developed polymers capable of repairing themselves at room temperature.

These advances would make it possible to develop robots much more resilient, particularly those working in conditions where stopping for repairs is absolutely not possible. In the long term, the cost of producing and maintaining these machines could therefore decrease.

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Innovative materials for effective repair

In order to progress on this path, it was necessary to & #8217;integrate conductive materials within polymersto provide electronic components with autonomous repair capability.

Carmel Majidi of Carnegie Mellon University (Pennsylvania) is the&# 8217;one of these researchers at the forefront of this field of research. With his team, they have developed flexible electronic elements that can be repaired independently thanks to the integration of liquid metals into elastic polymers. “ The idea is to create robots that have the same properties as natural nervous tissue: an ability to collect and transport signals ”. explains Majidi.

Zhenan Bao, (Stanford University) and his colleagues managed to design a species of electronic skin self- restorative. This is capable of detecting damage with sensors. Thanks to conductive charges (carbon nanotubes for example) implemented in self-repairing polymers, this skin can heal itself without human intervention.

These innovations are not simple ways to improve the durability of electronic components. They are also akin to a redefinition of our relationship with technology in a global way, with a future potentially populated by machines capable of think and keep themselves functioning alone.

Towards systemic integration of healing capacity

Of course, there are currently no real robots capable of self-healing. The next step will be the integration of these highly sophisticated materials into more complex robotic systems. The objective would be to give them the ability to detect themselves if they have been damaged, which would trigger autonomous repair mechanisms. For this, it is necessary to develop sensors specific to this use

Vanderborght and his team are also working on the design of these sensors, which would allow robots to finely recognize any alteration of their structure.

In parallel with this, another mode of integration draws inspiration from vascular systemswith which living organisms are endowed. Thanks to fluids circulating through channels integrated into robots; like blood in the venous system; these could pass the substances necessary for repair through the structure of a robot.

These fluids could also make internal communication more fluid by transmitting sensory data. Shepherd elaborates: “ Liquids are the ultimate self-healing material, if you can contain them ”.

This part of robotics research is truly fascinating. By focusing instead on autonomy in maintaining functionsthat on the autonomy of action, these explorations open the door to applications that were until then unimaginable. Depollution drones working continuously in risk areas, self-maintaining farming robots or self-repairing medical implants, the range of possibilities is very vast.

  • Researchers are working on polymer-based materials capable of repairing themselves.
  • Others are developing materials which could detect damage and recover their initial properties.
  • Next step: integrate these innovations into more sophisticated robotic systems.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116