Oscillating gel could give robots ability to ‘feel’

Oscillating gel could give robots ability to ‘feel’
Researchers in the US have demonstrated that Belousov-Zhabotinsky (BZ) gel can be resuscitated using mechanical pressure, a breakthrough that could pave the way for robots with sensory skin.

A team from the University of Pittsburgh and MIT found that the oscillating gel, which pulsates like a beating heart in the absence of any external stimuli, could be re-excited when mechanically compressed beyond critical stress.

"Think of it like human skin, which can provide signals to the brain that something on the body is deformed or hurt," said Anna Balazs, Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering at Pittsburgh. "This gel has numerous far-reaching applications, such as artificial skin that could be sensory - a holy grail in robotics."

Balazs says the gel could also serve as a small scale pressure sensor for different vehicles or instruments to see whether or not they've been involved in a collision, providing diagnostics for the impact on surfaces.

The research was published in the March 26 issue of Advanced Functional Materials.

Author
Laura Hopperton

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