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MIT's Shape-Shifting Robot Materials

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posted on Jul, 15 2014 @ 01:11 AM
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A robot made of a phase-changing material built from wax and foam, which can switch between hard and soft states, could bring something like the T-1000 Terminator robot to life. DARPA is still trying to get robots that are squishy and can squeeze into small spaces (see Chembot Squishy SquishBot Robots Desired By DARPA).



The material — developed by Anette Hosoi, a professor of mechanical engineering and applied mathematics at MIT, and her former graduate student Nadia Cheng, alongside researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization and Stony Brook University — could be used to build deformable surgical robots. The robots could move through the body to reach a particular point without damaging any of the organs or vessels along the way. Robots built from the material, which is described in a new paper in the journal Macromolecular Materials and Engineering, could also be used in search-and-rescue operations to squeeze through rubble looking for survivors, Hosoi says.

So the researchers decided that the only way to build a deformable robot would be to develop a material that can switch between a soft and hard state, Hosoi says. “If you’re trying to squeeze under a door, for example, you should opt for a soft state, but if you want to pick up a hammer or open a window, you need at least part of the machine to be rigid,” she says.

To build a material capable of shifting between squishy and rigid states, the researchers coated a foam structure in wax. They chose foam because it can be squeezed into a small fraction of its normal size, but once released will bounce back to its original shape.

The wax coating, meanwhile, can change from a hard outer shell to a soft, pliable surface with moderate heating. This could be done by running a wire along each of the coated foam struts and then applying a current to heat up and melt the surrounding wax. Turning off the current again would allow the material to cool down and return to its rigid state.

In addition to switching the material to its soft state, heating the wax in this way would also repair any damage sustained, Hosoi says. “This material is self-healing,” she says. “So if you push it too far and fracture the coating, you can heat it and then cool it, and the structure returns to its original configuration.”

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posted on Jul, 16 2014 @ 02:25 PM
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a reply to: JohnnyAnonymous

Awesome tech. Very fascinating to watch. I'm excited and scared at the same time in what this developing technology will do for the robotics industry.

This tehcnology doesn't have to stop with robotics. It can be used in almost any industry, like aerospace or automotive. Of course, that depends how strong this wax material is.



posted on Jul, 16 2014 @ 06:31 PM
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originally posted by: guppy
This tehcnology doesn't have to stop with robotics. It can be used in almost any industry, like aerospace or automotive. Of course, that depends how strong this wax material is.


I was thinking along the same lines.

If it could become responsive enough in a rapid way, think of the possibilities for a new form of Exo-Skeleton Suit? Or how about even in a vehicle which could remain rigid and then form into a different design or look. A new form of Furniture that could contour itself to everyone's personal shape and size and remain that way till someone else sits or reclines on it.

Possibilities could be endless...



posted on Jul, 16 2014 @ 06:34 PM
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I'm curious as to what this could mean for prosthetics?
2nd.



posted on Jul, 17 2014 @ 12:29 PM
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originally posted by: peck420
I'm curious as to what this could mean for prosthetics?


I have to admit that I had not considered that avenue of thought. I could see many uses in that area.

Something I was also thinking about just earlier is while I was looking at some Earthquake footage. What if (in some cases) your foundation had something similar that remain rigid till an Earthquake or tremor occurred which then would allow for the construct to sway or bend slightly (like a form of shock absorption), keeping the above structure able to survive?






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