First ‘robot nerves’ set to revolutionise smart clothes

Super-elastic, multi-material and high-performance fibres Alban Kakulya / 2018 EPFL

Swiss researchers have developed super-elastic, multi-material, high-performance fibres which have already been used as sensors on robotic fingers and in clothing. They say this breakthrough method opens the door to new kinds of smart textiles and medical implants. 

This content was published on May 28, 2018 - 18:32

“The fibres can detect even the slightest pressure and strain and can withstand deformation of close to 500% before recovering their initial shape. All that makes them perfect for applications in smart clothing and prostheses, and for creating artificial nerves for robots,” the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) said in a statementExternal link

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The fibres, which are made of elastomer and can incorporate materials like electrodes and nanocomposite polymers, were integrated into robotic fingers as artificial nerves, the institute explained. 

Whenever the fingers touch something, electrodes in the fibres transmit information about the robot’s tactile interaction with its environment. The research team also tested adding their fibres to large-mesh clothing to detect compression and stretching. 

“Our technology could be used to develop a touch keyboard that’s integrated directly into clothing, for instance,” said Fabien Sorin, head of EPFL’s Laboratory of Photonic Materials and Fiber Devices. 

The fibres are the work of scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology in St Gallen (EMPA) and the Technical University of Berlin. The research was published in Advanced MaterialsExternal link.

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