Scientists invent self-healing robot skin that mimics the real thing

The material can self-heal in just 24 hours when warmed to 158°F or in about a week at room temperature.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Robotic skin.jpg
Robotic skin.


Stanford professor Zhenan Bao and his team have invented a multi-layer self-healing synthetic electronic skin that can now self-recognize and align with each other when injured, allowing the skin to continue functioning while healing. The new skin mimics the real thing allowing robots to feel like humans.

This is according to a report by Fox News published on Friday.

"We’ve achieved what we believe to be the first demonstration of a multi-layer, thin film sensor that automatically realigns during healing," Christopher B. Cooper, Stanford Ph.D. student and co-author of the study, told the news outlet.

"This is a critical step toward mimicking human skin, which has multiple layers that all re-assemble correctly during the healing process."

The new materials can sense thermal, mechanical or electrical changes around them and even recognize pressure. Better yet, they can autonomously heal themselves.

"It is soft and stretchable. But if you puncture it, slice it, or cut it each layer will selectively heal with itself to restore the overall function. Just like real skin," co-author Sam Root said. 

"One layer might sense pressure, another temperature, and yet another tension," Root added. 

Self-healing in 24 hours

The material can self-heal in just 24 hours when warmed to 158°F or in about a week at room temperature.

"Combining with magnetic field-guided navigation and induction heating, we may be able to build reconfigurable soft robots that can change shape and sense their deformation on demand," co-author Renee Zhao told Fox News

The researchers now plan to superimpose thin layers of skins that have different abilities, such as a layer that can sense a change in temperature and another layer that senses pressure. This will bring the fake skin as close to the multidimensional real things as possible.

Although impressive, the invention is not entirely new. Back in May of 2020, researchers released a new robot skin that gave the machines the sense of touch.

John Yiannis Aloimonos, a professor with the University of Maryland’s Department of Computer Science, said at the time that artificial skin “enables robots to perceive their surroundings in much greater detail and with more sensitivity. This not only helps them to move safely. It also makes them safer when operating near people and gives them the ability to anticipate and actively avoid accidents.”

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