Graphene plus liquid crystals equals ‘Hot Fingers’

Graphene plus liquid crystals equals ‘Hot Fingers’

Technology News |
By Wisse Hettinga

Eindhoven researchers have developed a soft robotic ‘hand’ made from liquid crystals and graphene that could be used to design future surgical robots

TU/e researchers led by PhD candidate Laura van Hazendonk, Zafeiris Khalil (as part of his master’s research), Michael Debije, and Heiner Friedrich have designed a soft robotic hand or gripper made from graphene and liquid crystals (both organic materials). This opens the possibilities for such a device to be potentially and safely used in surgeries in the future.

The different materials are fluids, gels, and elastic materials – which are all easily deformable. “Typically, robots are made from metals, which are rigid and hard. But in certain applications, robots made from hard and rigid materials limit the performance of the robot,” says Van Hazendonk. “The solution is to think soft.”

In soft robotics, the goal is to make robots from materials like fluids or gels that can deform in certain situations and then can act like robots made from traditional rigid and hard materials. 

One area where soft robots look set to have a major impact is in surgical procedures. Van Hazendonk: “For a surgeon, many operations can be complex and delicate, and therefore require precise dexterity on the part of the surgeon. Sometimes this just isn’t possible, and they turn to robots. But rigid robots may not be able to access some areas with ease either. That’s where soft robots can come to the fore, and our goal was to offer the potential new helping hand for use in clamping and suturing used devices in surgeries, for example.”

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