Terminator soon a reality with this first “living” robot skin?

Scientists from the University of Tokyo have created skin that resembles human skin and is also alive. In a study published in the journal matter, They present a robotic finger covered with an organic skin and possessing functions water repellent and healing. A progress that may seem small, but brings us much closer real humanoids ! “I think living skin is the ultimate solution to making robots look and feel like living things because they are exactly the same material which covers the bodies of animals”said Shoji Takeuchi, first author of the study.

Real components of human skin

To get that texturethe researchers used an array of living cells in vitro and from collagen. A mix inspired by implants Biologics used in medicine to treat severe wounds and burns. First, they dipped the robotic finger into a mixture fibroblasts human skin and collagen to reproduce the equivalent dermisthen covered the whole thing keratinocytes human epidermis for form an epidermis.

The whole thing then shrunk over time solidificationthat surrounds the finger and forms folds that resemble those of real skin. “The advantage of our method of covering 3D objects with the equivalent of skin is the use of tissue shrinkage during culture, which allows for conformal covering of 3D objects, especially those with curved and uneven surfaces. », write the researchers.

To review the outfit and theelasticity The team then had several of the skin movements to robot fingersand has more “evaluated the barrier function of manufactured skin equivalents in vitro with electrical measurements and tests of water retention », as the researchers write. And everything has held up very well! ‘The finger al’Air slightly “wet” straight from the growing mediumS. Takeuchi gushed. Since the finger is powered by an electric motor, it’s also interesting to hear the motor clicking in unison with a finger that looks like a real one. »

healing properties

In addition to its aesthetic and mechanical properties, the newly created skin has properties ofself-healing. The researchers then applied a collagen bandage “Pain” The robotic finger: the bandage gradually fused with the skin, thus rebuilding it! “The wound was repaired by dermal fibroblast activity after the collagen foil was applied to the wound site. These results show the applicability of robots covered with living materials to biological functions and offer a new perspective on robotic materials. »

But that’s just the beginning, as the study concludes: Developed skin remains weaker than natural skin and demands nutrient supply : for the future the team plans to add sensory neuronsof follicle hairy, nails and sweat glands. “We are surprised at how good the fabric is Skin- adapts to the surface of the robotsays Takeuchi. But this work is just the first step towards creating robots covered in living skin. »

The formed skin withstood all tests! © Matter, Kawai and Section.

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