Stanford Scientists Develop Self-Healing Artificial Skin for Reconfigurable Soft Robots with Magnetic Properties

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Stanford University scientists have developed an artificial skin made from silicone and polypropylene glycol that stretches like human skin without tearing, and the skin’s magnetic properties allow it to self-align.

When heated, polymers soften and flow, and when cooled, they harden.

When heated to just 158 ​​degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius), self-leveling and healing occurs within approximately 24 hours.

The team said the skin could lead to “reconfigurable soft robots that can change shape and sense deformation on demand.”

“We have achieved what we believe is the first demonstration of a multilayer sensor and a thin film that automatically reorganizes during healing,” co-author Chris Cooper, Ph.D., told SWS. “This is an important step towards mimicking human skin.” , which has multiple layers that are all properly assembled “in the healing process”.

The team hailed the skin as the closest thing to the futuristic electronic skin worn by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cyborg character in the Terminator movie franchise.

Cooper and his colleagues used the same technique of layering human skin to develop their innovations.

“One layer can sense pressure, another temperature, and a third voltage,” study co-author Dr. Sam Root said.

Layers can be designed to sense thermal, mechanical, or electrical changes.

The backbone of each layer is made up of long molecular chains held together by dynamic hydrogen bonds, similar to those that hold the DNA double helix together.

The researchers used silicone and PPG (polypropylene glycol). Both have mechanical and rubbery properties and biocompatibility.

The two materials are carefully designed to provide identical viscoelastic responses to external stress over the appropriate temperature range.

The addition of magnetic materials led to the self-assembly of the prototype from separate parts.

“Combined with magnetic field navigation and induction heating, we will be able to create soft, reconfigurable robots that can change their shape and sense deformation on demand,” said co-author Professor René Zhao.

The long-term vision of the skin is to create organs that can regenerate after severe damage.

For example, imagine a device that can self-repair itself when torn apart.

The next step is to make the layers as thin as possible – with different functions. The current prototype is for a pressure sensor. Additional layers may be included to accommodate changes in temperature or voltage.

As for the vision for the future, the team envisions robots that can be swallowed piece by piece and then self-assembled inside the body to perform non-invasive medical procedures.

Other applications include multi-sensory, self-healing electronic skins that fit robots and give them a sense of touch.

Source: Daily Mail

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