The material was developed by a scientific team from Penn State University and the Max Planck Institute for intelligent systems. The project was partially funded by the office of Army Research (ARO) to provide a more durable and reliable solution for flexible robot actuators.
some moving parts of a flexible robot will be worn over time after being subjected to repeated pressure. So, like many others in the robotics field, researchers have begun to develop an innovative solution that can handle some maintenance on their own.
the scientific team came up with the idea of a ring-shaped tooth used by squid to hold its prey. This kind of tooth is characterized by a mixture of hard and soft proteins that allow the tooth to heal itself when it breaks. The soft part facilitates the fusion of damaged proteins, while the hard part provides structural integrity and keeps the teeth strong.
by understanding the repeat sequences of these particular proteins, the team was able to create synthetic versions with a set of repeating amino acids in a bacterial bioreactor. Like the squid teeth it imitates, the polymer can heal itself with water and heat, and takes only a fraction of the time of comparable materials.
the lead author of the paper, Abdon Pena francesch of Penn State University, said: “we were able to reduce the traditional 24-hour healing period to one second, so our protein-based soft robots can now repair themselves immediately. In nature, self-healing takes a long time. In this sense, our technology is better than nature. ”
according to the team, even if the material is cut in half, it can recover 100% of its original strength. In addition, it is completely biodegradable and can be recycled into the same original polymer, unlike many petroleum based polymers that need to be completely recycled into something else.