Crafting flexible smart skins for robots and medical applications, using metasurfaces for "touch" and communication.

The FITNESS project will realize flexible smart skins able to provide a non-contact sense of “touch”. The envisioned smart skins will operate at microwave frequencies, and the same device will also allow far-field communication. The key technology enabling these functionalities is that of metasurfaces, i.e. structured surfaces that have unusual properties at some frequencies. In this case, they convey and manipulate surface waves, which also can be turned into radiating leaky waves for far-field communications. The research follows a holistic and multidisciplinary concept targeting thin smart skins: the FITNESS project encompasses the synthesis of new low-loss flexible microwave substrates, research on the embedded electronics, the analysis and design of metasurfaces on curved structures and data analysis. The first demonstrator will be realized in the field of robotics, while later applications are envisioned in the medical area. Therefore, FITNESS will integrate ultra-low power operation from the beginning. The devices will essentially work through the measurement of the transmittance between a limited number of ports (sparse electronics), through surface waves following the shape of the smart skin which is wrapped around the robot or the body. The workpackages follow the main challenges toward the new technology: sparse, curved, integrated and flexible metasurfaces. One of the main societal outputs will consist of a more harmonious cooperation between robots and humans through the constant probing of their respective near-field environments.

This ambitious 48-months 3.6 MEuros action gathers complementary key European experts from 4 EU countries, covering electromagnetics, electronics, materials, robotics, thermal aspects, but also the necessary skills for appropriate management, communication and exploitation: 3 universities (5 research teams), 2 SMEs and 2 research centers.


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