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Empowering Robots with Engineered Skin Tissue: A Leap forward in Robotics

Empowering Robots with Engineered Skin Tissue: A Leap forward in Robotics

An exciting discovery has shed new light on the possibilities for future robots. A team of researchers led by Professor Shoji Takeuchi at the University of Tokyo has found a novel method to affix engineered skin tissue onto the intricate structures of humanoid robots, a finding that could revolutionize the world of robotics.

The incorporation of engineered skin offers many potential advantages to robot platforms such as increased agility, the ability to self-heal, embedded sensing capabilities, and a more realistic appearance reminiscent of human skin. This development was inspired by human skin ligaments. Utilizing specially designed perforations in the robot's face allowed the skin layer to take root.

Prof. Takeuchi is no stranger to the world of biohybrid robotics. His lab, the Biohybrid Systems Laboratory, has already created mini-robots that walk using biological muscle tissue, lab-grown meat using 3D printed technology, and engineered skin capable of healing.

Speaking about their recent work, Prof. Takeuchi noted that the need for improved adhesion between robotic characteristics and the structure of the skin underneath, which became apparent during the research on a robot finger shrouded in skin tissue, led them to enhance the robotic skin's capabilities.

Prior techniques to affix skin tissue to solid surfaces usually involved mini anchors or hooks. However, these methods limit the types of surfaces upon which skin coatings can be applied and often cause damage during motion. The researchers cleverly exploited small perforations alongside a special collagen gel for adhesion. Although the gel's viscous nature made it challenging to infuse into the tiny perforations, the team succeeded by employing a common plastic adhesion method called plasma treatment.

This technology has the potential to bring a plethora of new abilities to robots. The incorporation of living skin tissue especially can help robots exhibit minor self-healing, just like humans do. Other organs related to the skin, like nerves, could also be integrated to enhance sensing abilities.

The potential applications of these findings are not limited to improving robotic capabilities. The concept of an organ-on-a-chip is also being considered, which may prove beneficial in areas like drug development, skin aging research, cosmetics, surgical procedures, plastic surgery, and more. Enhancing robotic skin could also lead to robots with better environmental awareness, and improved interactive capabilities.

The team acknowledges that there are many challenges ahead. For example, replicating human appearance requires addressing necessities like surface wrinkles and a thicker epidermis. This could be realized through the incorporation of sweat glands, sebaceous glands, pores, blood vessels, fat, and nerves to achieve a more human-like appearance. To truly encapsulate human behavior, it is crucial to create human-like expressions by integrating advanced actuating muscles into robots.

Despite these challenges, the opportunity to create self-healing robots with heightened sensing abilities and humanlike dexterity is incredibly inspiring and motivating for the team.

Disclaimer: The above article was written with the assistance of AI. The original sources can be found on ScienceDaily.