To Build a Robot Like Star Trek’s Data We Need to Perfect Soft Machine Technology

July 12, 2014 – Researchers at Purdue University are into developing soft machines. They are doing this by embedding liquid-alloy devices into a polymer to form a soft network of sensors that can deform and twist just like our skin.


Purdue stretchable sensors


The findings were published in a research paper entitled Stretchable Electronics, appearing in the June 18, 2014 issue of the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

The alloy used is Gallium-Indium which when exposed to ambient conditions forms a Gallium-oxide skin that can be printed on a silicon-based elastomer, polydimethylsiloxane. The result is a sensing material that can be stretched as much as the substrate polymer upon which it is printed. The researchers claim the material with embedded sensors is capable of stretching 500% of its length.

That means you can make clothes with embedded sensors or a robot with a skin that feels just like ours. Could a Data be around the corner?



Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...