Soft Jelly Robotic Hand Can Heal Itself After Being Cut

Soft robots are useful for countless applications - from picking up delicate objects in the food industry, to assisting with minimally invasive surgery. They can perform tasks in dynamic work environments while ensuring safe contact with humans. However, being made of soft materials also makes them susceptible to damage caused by sharp objects or excessive pressure. Scientists from the University of Brussels have come up with a method that enables soft robots to completely heal from such damage. They have built soft robots made entirely from elastomers. When heated, the molecular bonds that keep the elastomer together loosen. With the heat removed, the bonds resolidify. A little over an hour after being damaged, the soft robotic material was almost completely healed, and 24 hours after cooling, the only evidence was a small scar. The scientists applied this principle in three self-healing, pneumatic robotic components: a gripper, a robotic hand, and an artificial muscle.