Scientists craft living human skin for robots

The skin comprises collagen and human dermal fibroblasts, the two main components of our skin’s connective tissues. This initial layer of skin shrinks naturally to wrap the component and acts like an undercoating for the next layer of cells called human epidermal keratinocytes, which stick too. The skin is tough enough to withstand the curling and stretching of the robot’s finger. It is waterproof like our own skin and has healing properties when any wound is treated with a collagen bandage. These cells comprise about 90% of the outermost layer of the skin and thus giving the robot a skin-like texture and moisture-retaining properties.

A tissue molding method is used to directly cover skin tissue around the robot, which results in seamless skin coverage on a robotic finger.

Using living cells endows robots with the biological functions of the skin, such as its ability to self-repair and repel water, which allows the robot to function in wet conditions and protects its internal circuit.

The outermost layer is thick enough to be lifted with tweezers and repelled water, which provides various benefits in performing specific tasks like handling electrostatically charged polystyrene foam, a material often used in packaging.

Since the skin can be healed, it reduces the maintenance cost of the protective layer. Also, looking like a human is one of the top priorities for building humanoid robots that are tasked to interact with humans in the healthcare and service industries. Thus human-like appearance can improve communication efficiency and evoke likability.

These biohybrid robots have superior sensory capabilities, including energy conversion.

The collagen in the skin provides a tensile strength of 1000 lower than that of the human dermis. Thus, on the movement of the joints, the skin is undamaged and provides good elasticity.

  • Once out of the culture medium, the skin gets corrupted.
  • The differences in temperature and humidity affect the robotic finger and cause it to dry out till the dermis and epidermis lose their appearance and properties.
  • Without the supply of nutrients, blood, and oxygen, skin cells die out.

The humanoid skin can be used not only for making humanoid robots but also for providing a skin layer for amputated body parts, thus giving them a more human-like appearance.

Not only that, this technology can help scientists get one step closer to building humanoid robots that have both the appearance and can perform functions like humans.

The skin can also have hair follicles, nails, and sensory neurons with further development.

Yalmarthy NV Ronnit gupta is the writer of this article. Views expressed and information provided belong solely to the author.

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