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Smart Foam Made in Singapore with Touch and Self-Healing Functions

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Scientists at the Materials Science and Engineering Laboratory of the National University of Singapore have developed a foam material that allows robots to sense objects and can self-repair when damaged, similar to human skin.

Called AiFoam, the material is a highly elastic polymer created by mixing a fluoropolymer with a surface tension reducing compound. When cut, it is easily reassembled into a whole piece.

Smart Foam Made in Singapore with Touch and Self-Healing Functions

Smart Foam Made in Singapore with Touch and Self-Healing Functions

Smart Foam Made in Singapore with Touch and Self-Healing Functions

To replicate the human touch, the researchers filled the material with microscopic metal particles and added tiny electrodes underneath the material. When pressure is applied, the metal particles in the polymer matrix move closer together, changing its electrical properties. These changes can be detected using electrodes connected to the computer. The described structure allows the robot arm to determine not only the magnitude, but also the direction of the applied force. In addition, the “skin” can sense not only touches, but also the approach of objects due to the disturbances introduced by their electric field.

Development took over two years. The project participants hope to introduce the material into practical applications within five years. Improved prostheses can be one of the applications.

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