A soft self-healing robot has been developed by a team of engineers from Cornell University.

According to its developers, the soft, self-healing robot can detect when and where it was damaged and subsequently heal itself.

Source: Cornell UniversitySource: Cornell University

To develop the self-healing soft robot, the Cornell engineers used fiber-optic sensors along with LED lights that can detect subtle changes on the robot’s surface. The sensors were paired with a polyurethane urea elastomer that features both hydrogen bonds — for quick healing — and disulfide exchanges — for strength.

The end result is dubbed self-healing light guides for dynamic sensing (SHeaLDS), which offers a damage-resistant soft robot that is capable of self-healing cuts at room temperature and without external intervention.

The researchers demonstrated the SHeaLDS by incorporating the technology into a soft, four-legged starfish-like robot and equipping it with feedback control. During testing, one of the starfish robot’s legs was punctured six times, with the robot detecting the damage thereafter and self-healing each wound in roughly one minute. The engineers suggested that the robot could also autonomously adjust its gait according to the damage it detected.

The Cornell technology is detailed in the article, Autonomous self-healing optical sensors for damage intelligent soft-bodied systems, which appears in the journal Science Advances.

To contact the author of this article, email mdonlon@globalspec.com