Scientists have created a material that spontaneously repairs itself under extreme mechanical damage, and could be used to build self-healing robots. The soft-matter composite material developed by researchers at the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in the US is composed of liquid metal droplets suspended in a soft elastomer. When damaged, the droplets rupture to form new connections with neighbouring 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. Since the material also exhibits high electrical conductivity that does not change when stretched, it is ideal for use in power and data transmission.
“Other research in soft electronics has resulted in materials that are elastic and deformable, but still vulnerable to mechanical damage that causes immediate electrical failure,” said Carmel Majidi, associate professor at CMU.
“The unprecedented level of functionality of our self-healing material can enable soft-matter electronics and machines to exhibit the extraordinary resilience of soft biological tissue and organisms,” said Majidi.
“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.