An Idea that Might Grow On You

A collaborative effort between Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) and Carnegie Mellon University has established a method of growing hydrogel in a way that more closely resembles the shape and structure of plant or animal tissue. Robots and the medical field will be among the benefactors.

A little Frankenstein-ish, perhaps, or reminiscent of growing the ear on the back of a mouse. The effort will bring a robot onto the world stage, that is a combination of software, robotics and a frame that has been covered with living, growing skin. In a story, Brad Jones points out the advantages of a flexible, replaceable skin for robots.

Hydrogel is not a new substance. It has been commonly used for tissue engineering and in the field of soft robotics.

It seems our own organs have specializations that help them do their jobs properly. By using hydrogel, it increases the area in which organs can produce the special substance needed for their function. More growing area, allows for more product, and now hydrogel is being applied to robots in forming complex structures.

“Greater control of the growth and self-assembly of hydrogels into complex structures offers a range of possibilities in medical and robotics fields,” commented inbound NTU Singapore president Subra Suresh in a press release. “One field that stands to benefit is tissue engineering, where the goal is to replace damaged biological tissues, such as in knee repairs or in creating artificial livers.”

From medicine to robotics, 2018 will begin the merging of these fields even closer that they already are. The technology will help regrow the needed tissues to regrow organs, is an idea that has finally been proven viable. Hydrogels use in robotic, will make hasten the development of  humanoid-robots. Robots than appear to be more human than machine, are easier to accept as friendly, living creatures, rather than be fearful of what looks like threatening, metallic monsters.

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