Artificial Light-Up Skin For Robots Is Super Stretchy

Posted: Mar 4 2016, 1:16am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

Artificial Light-Up Skin For Robots is Super Stretchy

Researchers at the Cornell University developed a stretchy artificial skin for robot that can light up.

Soft robots are one of the development goals in robotics. Robots that are aimed at supporting people should be soft like humans for safety and comfort reasons. To make soft robots artificial skin is necessary to cover up the steel structures of robots like the amazing Boston Dynamics Atlas.

A team of Cornell graduate students, led by Rob Shepherd, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, has developed an electroluminescent artificial skin that stretches to more than six times its original size while still emitting light.

“This material can stretch with the body of a soft robot, and that’s what our group does,” Shepherd said, noting that the material has two key properties: “It allows robots to change their color, and it also allows displays to change their shape.”

As often the case there something in nature that already does that. The skins of some cephalopods, such as the octopus, are highly flexible and contain color-changing cells.

This hyper-elastic light-emitting capacitor (HLEC), which can endure more than twice the strain of previously tested stretchable displays, consists of layers of transparent hydrogel electrodes sandwiching a dielectric (insulating) elastomer sheet. The elastomer changes luminance and capacitance (the ability to store an electrical charge) when stretched, rolled and otherwise deformed.

“We can take these pixels that change color and put them on these robots, and now we have the ability to change their color,” Shepherd said. “Why is that important? For one thing, when robots become more and more a part of our lives, the ability for them to have emotional connection with us will be important. So to be able to change their color in response to mood or the tone of the room we believe is going to be important for human-robot interactions.”

The researchers do not reveal how the haptic properties of this material are. How does it feel when a human touches that material. Does it feel like rubber or closer to real human skin?

The details of this artificial robot skin research have been published in the paper, “Highly Stretchable Electroluminescent Skin for Optical Signaling and Tactile Sensing” in journal Science.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/2" rel="author">Luigi Lugmayr</a>
Luigi Lugmayr () is the founding chief Editor of I4U News and brings over 15 years experience in the technology field to the ever evolving and exciting world of gadgets. He started I4U News back in 2000 and evolved it into vibrant technology magazine.
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