self healing material

‘Wolverine’ inspired self-healing material allows robots to self heal

When Stan Lee cooked up Admantium as the stuff that makes Wolverine tick, never in his wildest dreams would he have imagined the material become a reality. But, researchers have finally made that happen with the invention of a new type of conductor they have named as “The Ionic Conductor”. This substance makes self-healing ions while conducting electricity.

The birth of the Ionic Conductor

Chao Wang, a researcher based out of the University of California, and his colleagues used ion-dipole interactions to hold the molecules together. This particular structural choice enabled them to combine the charged ions with polar molecules where each end of the molecules is oppositely charged. One end of it would be positively charged while the other would be negatively charged.

The resultant electrical imbalance in these molecules though minute produces an electrostatic attraction between the opposite poles. It does so through the combination of a stretchable polar polymer and high-ionic strength salt, the researchers are thus able to generate the properties they need.

Enhancements

Wang and his team also placed a transparent membrane in between two layers of the new material to produce an artificial muscle prototype. This artificial muscle prototype is similar to the way the human brain works it is activated by the same electrical signals that causes muscles to respond to brain signals.

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This sets an interesting precursor to the applications of self healing material in such critical fields like on the battlefield or on space travel. The uses will most heavily impact the global military industrial complex especially since this discovery offers potential benefits to the armed forces. The United States became the first country to deploy a robotic police officer earlier this year during a shootout in Texas and now with the advent of self healing technologies it sets a new precedent for using military tools that are on the cutting edge.

self healing material

Implications

This new discovery can give robots the ability to self heal after a mechanical failure and stretch the lifetime of lithium ion batteries that are used in electric cars and electronics. Wang and team have been grappling with these technologies for decades and are just beginning to explore the possibilities.

It may even be used to produce artificial muscles that are stronger and more flexible compared with metal limbs, as well as improve biosensors that are used in environmental monitoring and the medical field. Although there are potential dangers from these technologies for now they are being widely celebrated in popular media.

Interdisciplinary impact

The self healing technologies should be of great interest to AI researchers as well as those trying to battle aging such as the Oxford based researcher Aubrey De Grey. It also offers a lot of potential benefits to the challenges of the world today such as curing diseases, improving health care in third world countries and the alleviation of suffering globally. So these are interesting days ahead for researchers such as Wang and his team as they find out new modes of being and this could also impact the field of medical research and healthcare forever.

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Paul Kerri
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