Collaboration enables development of bio inspired robots

Collaboration enables development of bio inspired robots
STMicroelectronics has joined forces with one of Italy's most prestigious universities to create a joint laboratory for research and innovation in biorobotics, smart systems and microelectronics.

Working with the BioRobotics Institute of Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna in Pisa, ST says the Catania based lab will support the expansion of research in biologically inspired robots with human like structures and behaviour.
Researchers will work to extend the understanding of locomotion principles in sensing, actuation, dynamics and control of various biological systems. New materials and technologies such as optoelectronics and electronics on plastic will also be researched.

According to ST, the collaboration will lead to a better understanding of the physical design of bodies and the organisation of their sensory and nervous systems. ST will supply logistics, material, equipment and skilled researchers for the collaboration which is already exploring the capabilities of smart sensors in medical applications.

The team plans to work in the area of humanoid robots, entirely new machines with flexible and compliant properties. The soft bodied robots are made of shape memory materials capable of acting and interacting physically, emotionally, socially and safely with humans.

The aim is to participate in the EU Future and Emerging Technologies Programme for the development of companion robots. One example of the lab's interests is in replacing the motor from a conventional robot's elbow and replacing it with an artificial 'muscle,' making the system lighter, as well as more natural looking.

In biorobotics, the joint laboratory will also focus on exploiting the use of new materials in advanced applications, yielding lighter weight and more resilient robots. These new materials include shape memory alloys, or smart metals, which exhibit unique, muscle like properties, such as pseudo elasticity and the shape memory effect. Such materials 'remember' their original shape and, after deformation, can return to their predeformed shape when heated. This quality can be useful in applications such as medical equipment and aviation.

"Biorobotics and smart systems will be fundamental to the sustainable development of human society in the 21st Century, improving our quality of life in all its aspects, from manufacturing and medicine to smart homes and environment protection," said Professor Paolo Dario, director of the BioRobotics Institute of Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna. "The joint laboratory will help advance our efforts in creating the next generation of intelligent systems integrating microelectronics, mechanics and computing technologies."

Chris Shaw

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