Swiss researchers create self-healing skin for robots

Definitely not artificial: elephant skin. Keystone / Markus Schreiber

Scientists have used a 3D printer to print a skin for a robot which can repair itself after being damaged.

This content was published on December 30, 2022 minutes

The research by the Federal Institute of Technology ETH Zurich , publishedExternal link in the scientific journal “Nature Materials”, built on the self-healing properties of materials such as animal bones or plant stems, the scientists said.

They used a 3D printer to create a grid made of a hydrogel loaded with the Ganoderma lucidum fungus. Similarly to food mould, fungal mycelia – i.e. the root network of the fungi – then colonised this printed grid.

In about 20 days, the result was a skin both robust and capable of self-regeneration: when cut, it grows back. The skin owes this self-healing ability to the metabolic activity of the fungal mycelial cells, which have evolved in nature to be able to navigate and grow through the openings of porous structures.

Need for nourishment

However, in order for the skin to regenerate itself, it must not lose this metabolic activity, for which it needs nutrients. According to the study, the way in which the fungal skin can get this nourishment still needs further research. It is also not yet known how the waste products can be removed over a longer period of time.

To examine the process, the ETH researchers printed a robot skin and carried out several tests, such as rolling the robot over various surfaces and immersing it in water. The printed skin passed all tests without problems.

In future, the technology could “bring life to the world of materials”, the researchers wrote.

In compliance with the JTI standards

In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

Contributions under this article have been turned off. You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

Share this story

Change your password

Do you really want to delete your profile?