Soft robot detects its own damage and heals itself

Researchers combined optical sensors with a composite material to create a soft robot that can detect when and where it was damaged – and then heal itself on the spot.


“Our lab is always trying to make robots more enduring and agile, so they operate longer with more capabilities,” said Rob Shepherd, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. “If you make robots operate for a long time, they’re going to accumulate damage. And so how can we allow them to repair or deal with that damage?” Shepherd’s Organic Robotics Lab has developed stretchable fiber-optic sensors for use in soft robots and related components — from skin to wearable technology. For self-healing to work, Shepard says the key first step is that the robot must be able to identify that there is, in fact, something that needs to be fixed.


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