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Thursday, February 4, 2016

The biodegradable bodies for more eco-friendly robots

Scientists from the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) develops "smart material" that led to the creation of robots that can decompose its body like the human body when they reach the end of life. Robots are now becoming increasingly resembling living beings, but what lies under the skin of synthetic is different story. The main part of the robots are made of metal and plastic, the materials that are difficult to unravel.

But researchers in Italy developed a "smart material" which enables the manufacture of robots from materials that will biodegrade when its life ended. By combining two different materials at the nano level, scientists create new materials that preserve the properties of individual components but featuring characters that would not be possible individually.
Illustration - Model robot tele-Actroid F called Geminoid F developed by Osaka University and ATR. (Picture from: http://bit.ly/1VuMLSU)
"We incorporate materials with nano technology. So what we are doing besides making new composite materials (smart materials) we also use them to change the properties of other materials. Other materials that already exist such as paper or cotton or other foam; from synthetic foams such as polyurethane or other forms of cotton," said Athanassia Athanassiou, who heads the Smart Materials Group at IIT in Genoa.

"So like this, in all the existing materials we provide novel properties not possessed these materials so that we can expand its use," she added.

The researchers say that their smart materials could eventually replace conventional plastics made from petroleum, a fossil fuels that contribute to climate change. Bioplastics made from plant material, but more energy-intensive production.

Athanassiou team has developed a way to make bioplastic from the food waste, hoping to reduce the need for additional energy by using resources that are normally discarded. Robotics could become an important application of their research according to Athanassiou.

"These materials can decompose, natural ingredients, they are very flexible so they can be used for the robot skin. But they also can be very hard so it can be used for the internal parts of the robot," said Athanassiou.

"And also the skin is flexible, for instance the robotic skin, we can incorporate the sensors so that they have the tactile sensing to the robot need, but with materials that can decompose," she said as told to Reuters.

Nikos Tsagarakis, a lead researcher of humanoid robot project at IIT, said that the robot maker experts should switch from metal to build the next generation of robots.

"The main issue is actually difficult to see how you get the properties that you want; for example, adjust with more properties of the human body. So using alternative materials will benefit from it - will help us make the robot lighter, more efficient and, finally, can also be recycled," said Tsagarakis, who developed Walk-Man, a humanoid robot to operate devices humans and interact with the environment in a manner similar to that carried out by someone.

The robots are made from materials that can decompose to be more like a human, and may be more easily accepted in the real world. And if the robot really exists everywhere, they also need to be more easily removed at the end of their life ended.

Athanassiou sure materials that can decompose close to the outer layer of the skin similar and he believes in the end the whole body of the robot can be unraveled like flesh and blood.

"I am convinced that the starting point is made a part of the robot, such as the outside of the robot, for example, with a material that can decompose. But within a few years, I think all parts of the robot can be unraveled," she said. *** [EKA | FROM VARIOUS SOURCES | REUTERS]
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