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Robot, heal thyself

Adding heat to soft bots’ rubbery material closes up lacerations

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2:09pm, August 16, 2017
soft robots

SOFT BOT SQUAD  Using an elastic, self-healing material, researchers created (from left to right) a robotic hand, gripper and muscle.

A new type of soft robot can go under the knife and make a full recovery in about a day.

Researchers fashioned a robotic hand, gripper and muscle from self-healing rubbery material. To test their robots’ resilience, the engineers sliced each with a scalpel, then put them in an oven. After cranking up the heat to 80° Celsius, baking the bots for 40 minutes, then cooling them to room temperature, the researchers found that all three bots’ cuts had completely closed up. Twenty-four hours later, the machines had regained at least 98 percent of their original strength and flexibility, the researchers report online August 16 in Science Robotics.

Incisions broke bonds between two chemical ingredients that make up the material, furan and maleimide. At higher temperatures, these chemical compounds can also split up, as well as move around more easily. So as the researchers

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