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Electronics news

Self-repairing soft robots

Soft fluid robots have a malleable, deformable structure. Unlike their rigid counterparts, soft fluid robots are able to navigate complex environments with greater ease and accuracy due to their inherent ability to deform and squeeze into tight spaces.

However, the widespread adoption of soft robots is hindered by a number of challenges. One of the main ones is the dependence on external fluid pumps, which limits their mobility and operating range, and hence their applications.

A team of researchers from Zhejiang University (China) has set out to address the shortcomings of liquid robots. They decided to make them more suitable for real-world applications. As a result, they managed to create a robot with built-in mechanisms and the ability to self-repair.

The robot's outer surface is covered with an electronic skin that monitors changes in electrical resistance. When damage occurs, data is transmitted by an on-board microcontroller to trigger the healing process by automatically pumping an electrofluid (linalyl acetate, which fills the robot's core) into the wound area and then releasing methyltriacetyloxysilicone and dibutyltin dilaurate (a highly reactive catalyst). In doing so, the electrofluid rapidly solidifies and restores the structural integrity of the robot. The healing process takes only 10 seconds and the restored material is capable of stretching to over 1200% of its original size.

If these technologies become widespread, robots will soon become commonplace. And if physical intelligence is combined with AI, we can expect some very interesting applications.