Technology 2 min read

Researchers Invent Soft Robotic Device With Neurological Functions

Image courtesy of University of Houston

Image courtesy of University of Houston

Researchers in the U.S. and China have teamed up to develop a soft robotic device with stretchable transistors that allow neurological functions.

According to the co-author of the study, Cunjiang Yu, Bill D. Cook, the new invention could change how we make prosthetics. It” ll enable the development of prosthetics that can directly connect with the peripheral nerves in the body.

Describing the human capabilities that the device can mimic, Yu said:

“When human skin is touched, you feel it. The feeling originates in your brain through neural pathways from your skin to the brain.”

Also, the soft robotic device would usher in new types of machines that can think and make judgments like humans. Here is how.

Developing a Soft Robotic Device With Neurological Functions

The neurons in the human body inspired the researchers to design an electronic device with a similar function. So, they created artificial synaptic transistors that remains functional even after being stretched by as much as 50 percent.

Alongside its stretching capabilities, the transistor also exhibits functions that are similar to those of biological synapses. These include short-term memory and long-term memory, as well as excitatory postsynaptic potential, current, and facilitation.

Although the resulting neurological function is not nearly as advanced as those in humans, it’s the first step towards a more sophisticated engineering system.

Yu and his team equipped the soft neurorobot with a neurologically integrated tactile sensory skin. That way, it can sense and interact with the external environment.

The researcher noted:

“The neurorobot senses physical tapping and locomotes adaptively in a programmed manner through synapse memory encoded signals.”

Findings from this study can serve as a groundwork for bringing neurological functions to artificial limbs, neuroprosthetics. Also, it could be useful in neuromorphic computing, an emerging tech that mimics the electric behavior of neural networks.

The researchers published their work in the journal Science Advances.

Read More: Soft Actuators for Compact Soft Robots Developed

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Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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