Computationally guided additive manufacturing of self-healing actuators and sensors

Principal Investigator: Mohammad Islam, Research Professor, Materials Science and Engineering, College of Engineering 

Co PI: Professor Lining Yao Assistant Professor, Human-Computer Interaction Institute

We have received funding from Carnegie Bosch Institute for materials that can self-heal to recover both the mechanical properties and the electrical conductivity, which are highly desired in diverse application areas including soft robotics, artificial muscles, synthetic skins, bio-monitoring systems, and functional wearables. However, development of self-healing electrical conductors for utilization in electronics and skin, and self-healing actuators for use in synthetic muscles are often explored separately due to orthogonal material property requirements. Furthermore, realization of practical applications requires inexpensive fabrication of constituting components with diverse morphology and properties, which additive manufacturing readily provides.

We propose to develop (1) transformative materials that can self-recover the mechanical properties and self-restore electrical conductivity if severed or damaged, and (2) additive manufacturing approaches to fabricate devices with these materials that display desired functionalities by incorporating computationally guided design features, ultimately generating self-healing actuators and sensors. In particular, we will focus on on-body devices that can be attached to human skin directly or as the outer layer of other machined parts (e.g., sensors for prosthesis skin). Working closely with our industrial collaborator, which intimately partners with national security and defense agencies on additive manufacturing of prosthesis and responsive tourniquet, we will develop functional demos on: (i) integrated sensing and self-tightening (actuation) tourniquet, and (ii) self-healing sensing skin for prosthesis. We believe the proposed work will advance the state-of-the-art of self-healing materials and soft robots. Further, our material is human skin compatible, making the self-healing actuators and sensors attractive in health monitoring, communication, assistive technology, sports, and entertainment industries.