Robotic handsEngineering is guided by three fundamental concerns: wear, friction and lubrication of machines – this category includes robots, which are used both to lift car engines and to suture small veins. The friction that occurs when robotic hands used to hold objects in the presence of moisture remained an unsolved problem until researchers at North Carolina State University discovered a new physics principle that not only explains the phenomenon, but also opens the door to a new approach in materials science.
“One of the reasons friction is important is because it helps us hold things up without dropping them. Understanding and circumventing it is intuitive for humans, even when we treat dishes with soap, but it is extremely difficult to consider when developing materials that control the gripping ability of robots, ” explains the chemical engineer in a statement . and biomolecular Lilian Hsiao, co-author of the study now published in the journal Nature Materials.
The protagonist in this operation, which is simple for us but still an obstacle for robots, is called elastohydrodynamic lubrication (EHL). It refers to the friction between two solid surfaces when they are separated by a thin layer of liquid – something that happens when you rub your index finger with your thumb; between the two fingers is a layer of oil in the sweat.
Now imagine this phenomenon occurring when a robotic arm is used by an amputated patient, in microsurgery, or when installing small parts of a space probe.