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SHERO: Self-Healing Soft Robotics

The Robotics research group of BruBotics is coordinating the H2020 FET SHERO project.

The radical vision of the SHERO project is the ambitious development of fully-autonomous self-healing soft robotic devices, by integrating engineered functional materials, smart sensing and active actuation and control capabilities into soft robots. These soft robotic systems will be able to sense and evaluate loss of performance and heal damage due to fatigue, overloading, and injuries by sharp objects present in dynamic environments or by human contact. Such fully integrated self-healing robotic systems – and by extension other devices, machines and structures – are unprecedented in scientific literature. This project will challenge the limits of current state-of-the-art research to fortify the foundations for all three pillars of mechatronic design: actuation, sensing and control, supported by advanced material design. Merged into prototypes and demonstrators, these fundamental principles are further refined in view of a synergistic development of more complex and autonomous robotic systems. The results of the project will reach further than the already broad field of robotics and automation. These concepts can be implemented in both dynamic and static applications and environments. The combination of material systems containing passive and active healing mechanisms with smart sensory capabilities could revolutionize automotive, aerospace and naval industries, on- and offshore energy production, manufacturing and construction sectors, illustrating the overarching impact of this pioneering technology on the development of more reliable and sustainable products, finding applications throughout society.

The breakthrough targeted in the project is the development of complete robotic systems that are able to feel pain (sense microscopic and macroscopic damage), react intelligently to relieve the pain (evaluate performance and prevent catastrophic failure), take the necessary measures to heal the damage and to restore all functions (induce or facilitate a controlled autonomous or non-autonomous healing of damaged elements), perform a rehabilitation (evaluate the quality of the healing process and take measures accordingly), and, finally, return to action. The unique, integrated design of SH capabilities in robotic systems with intelligent control will lead to lighter, more efficient, more reliable and more sustainable designs, as preventive and corrective healing will drastically increase the performance lifetime and reliability of such systems, even under unpredictable conditions. On the long term, the project will provide the fundamental insights and scientific developments to introduce performance evaluation and structural health monitoring, along with active control and intelligence to a much broader range of application domains.

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A Horizon 2020 FET Open Project (Grant Agreement ID: 828818).

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