Soon, soft robots that react to patient’s mood

Washington :Imagine a health care robot that displays a patient’s temperature and pulse, and even reacts to their mood. A new super elastic ‘skin’ could make it possible!

Researchers at the Cornell University in US have developed an electroluminescent “skin” that stretches to more than six times its original size while still emitting light.

The discovery could lead to significant advances in health care, transportation, electronic communication and other areas, researchers said. “This material can stretch with the body of a soft robot, and that is what our group does,” Shepherd said.

The material has two key properties, “it allows robots to change their colour, and it also allows displays to change their shape,” said Shepherd.

This hyper-elastic light-emitting capacitor (HLEC) can endure more than twice the strain of previously tested stretchable displays. It consists of layers of transparent hydrogel electrodes sandwiching an insulating elastomer sheet.

The elastomer changes luminance and capacitance (the ability to store an electrical charge) when stretched, rolled and otherwise deformed.

“We can take these pixels that change colour and put them on these robots, and now we have the ability to change their colour,” Shepherd said.

“Why is that important? For one thing, when robots become more and more a part of our lives, the ability for them to have emotional connection with us will be important.

“So to be able to change their colour in response to mood or the tone of the room we believe is going to be important for human-robot interactions,” said Shepherd.

In addition to its ability to emit light under a strain of greater than 480 per cent its original size, the group’s HLEC is capable of being integrated into a soft robotic system, researchers said.

Three six-layer HLEC panels were bound together to form a crawling soft robot, with the top four layers making up the light-up skin and the bottom two the pneumatic actuators.

The chambers were alternately inflated and deflated, with the resulting curvature creating an undulating, “walking” motion.