Self-healing material a breakthrough for bio-inspired robotics

May 21, 2018, Carnegie Mellon University Mechanical Engineering
A digital clock continues to keep time as damaged circuits instantaneously heal themselves, rerouting electrical signals without interruption. Credit: Nature Materials

Many natural organisms have the ability to repair themselves. Now, manufactured machines will be able to mimic this property. In findings published this week in Nature Materials, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have created a self-healing material that spontaneously repairs itself under extreme mechanical damage.

This soft-matter composite material is composed of liquid metal droplets suspended in a soft elastomer. When damaged, the droplets rupture to form new connections with neighboring droplets and reroute electrical signals without interruption. Circuits produced with conductive traces of this material remain fully and continuously operational when severed, punctured, or had material removed.

Applications for its use include bio-inspired robotics, human-machine interaction, and wearable computing. Because the material also exhibits that does not change when stretched, it is ideal for use in power and data transmission.

"Other research in soft electronics has resulted in that are elastic and deformable, but still vulnerable to the mechanical damage that causes electrical failure," said Carmel Majidi, an associate professor of mechanical engineering. "The unprecedented level of functionality of our can enable soft-matter electronics and machines to exhibit the extraordinary resilience of soft biological tissue and organisms."

A robotic quadruped functions despite damage, demonstrating the spontaneous, self-healing property of a new material developed at Carnegie Mellon University’s Integrated Soft Materials Laboratory. Credit: Nature Materials

Majidi, who directs the Integrated Soft Materials Laboratory, is a pioneer in developing new classes of materials in the field of soft matter engineering.

"If we want to build machines that are more compatible with the human body and the natural environment, we have to start with new types of materials," he said.

Majidi holds a courtesy appointment in the Robotics Institute. Other authors include Eric Markvicka and Xiaonan Huang of Carnegie Mellon University, and Michael D. Bartlett of Iowa State University.

Explore further: Invisible, stretchable circuits to shape next-gen tech

More information: "An autonomously electrically self-healing liquid metal–elastomer composite for robust soft-matter robotics and electronics" Nature Materials, DOI: 10.1038/s41563-018-0084-7

Related Stories

Invisible, stretchable circuits to shape next-gen tech

February 12, 2018

Electrically conductive films that are optically transparent have a central role in a wide range of electronics applications, from touch screens and video displays to photovoltaics. These conductors function as invisible ...

Fluidic transistor ushers the age of liquid computers

November 3, 2017

Transistors, those tiny electrical switches that process signals and data, are the brain power behind every electronic device – from laptops and smartphones to your digital thermostat. As they continue to shrink in size, ...

Recommended for you

Gut bacteria provide key to making universal blood

August 21, 2018

In January, raging storms caused medical emergencies along the U.S. East Coast, prompting the Red Cross to issue an urgent call for blood donations. The nation's blood supply was especially in need of O-type blood that can ...

Progress toward plugging an antibiotic pump

August 20, 2018

Each year in the U.S., at least 23,000 people die from infections caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.