Scientists developed a self-healing robot that “feels pain”

Self healing robot hand
© VUB Press

The Self Healing Soft Robotics (SHERO) project has created a robotic arm worth €3M. The arm can sense damage and take the steps towards temporarily healing itself.

Funded by the European Commission, a team led from the University of Cambridge have successfully created a self-healing robotic arm that could potentially save thousands on repairs due to it’s ability to detect damage and temporarily heal itself. This feature may reduce or even eliminate down time in industrial production.

The team consists of several groups formed by researchers from the University of Brussels (VUB), the research consortium includes the Department of Engineering (University of Cambridge), École Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles de la ville de Paris (ESPCI), Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa), and the Dutch Polymer manufacturer SupraPolix.

The team from the University of Cambridge lead by  Dr Fumiya Iida are hoping to integrate the use of the soft healing materials, used in this arm, into soft robotic arms.

Dr Thomas George Thuruthel, a research associate associate for the project has different hopes for the project. Thuruthel, believes that the material could have further applications in modular robotics, educational, robotics and evolutionary robotics.

Thuruthel said: “We will be using machine learning to work on the modelling and integration of these self-healing materials, to include self-healing actuators and sensors, damage detection, localisation and controlled healing,” he said. “The adaptation of models after loss of sensory data and during the healing process is another area we are looking to address. The end goal is to integrate the self-healing sensors and actuators into demonstration platforms in order to perform specific tasks.”

ESPCI-Paris is where the first self-healing elastomeric materials were created. ESPCI-Paris will also contribute to the project. They said: “We are excited to be part of this ambitious research project at the crossroads between soft matter physics, materials chemistry and information science. Soft robotics is an excellent opportunity for involving new materials.”

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