Scientists have created living human skin on robots that is water-repellent and can heal itself.
Scientists want robots resemble humans as much as possible so that they can be relatable, which is especially important when used in the healthcare and service sectors.
Researchers believe living skin is the answer to making robots look and feel alive.
To create the skin, the researchers immersed a robotic finger in collagen and human dermal fibroblasts – the two main components that make up the connective tissues of the skin.
Shoji Takeuchi, a professor at the University of Tokyo, said, “The finger looks slightly ‘sweaty’ straight out of the culture medium.
“Because the finger is driven by an electric motor, it’s also interesting to hear the clicks of the motor in harmony with a finger that looks like a real one.”
Although the current silicone skin designed for robots can mimic a human appearance, it does not have finer details like wrinkles and cannot function like human skin.
One of the challenges in creating sheets of living skin to cover robots is adapting them to moving objects with uneven surfaces.
Professor Takeuchi said: “With this method, you need to have the hands of a skilled craftsman who can cut and fit the skin sheets.
“To effectively cover surfaces with skin cells, we established a tissue molding method to directly mold skin tissues around the robot, resulting in seamless skin coverage on a robotic finger.”
According to Professor Takeuchi, the success lies in the natural tendency to shrink of this mixture of collagen and fibroblasts, which shrunk and conformed closely to the finger.
This layer also provided an even base for the next layer of human cells to be bonded.
These cells make up 90% of the outermost layer of skin, giving the robot a skin-like texture and moisture-retaining barrier properties.
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The fabricated skin is stretchy enough to move as the robotic finger wraps and stretches, can be lifted with tweezers, repels water, and can even self-heal with a bandage. collagen.
Professor Takeuchi said: “We are surprised by how the skin tissue conforms to the surface of the robot.
“I think living skin is the ultimate solution for making robots look and feel like living creatures, because it’s the exact same material that covers animal bodies.”
The study is published in the journal Matter.