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Credit: Terryn et al., Sci. Robot. (2017)

Scientists in Brussels have engineered soft robots that can use heat to heal their own wounds, barely leaving "scars." The key is rubbery material called elastomers that can change shape when exposed to mild heat.

Why it matters: "The lifespan of the robot is increased," Bram Vanderborght, one of the researchers, told Axios. Soft robots are unique in their adaptability — they're malleable and can navigate unknown environments. Most recently, Stanford researchers developed a vine-like soft robot that can "grow" like a plant and could potentially guide a patient's catheter in the future. These new self-healing properties could make robots resilient in potentially destructive environments.

How it works:

  • When exposed to temperatures around 80 degrees Celsius for 20 to 40 minutes, the elastomers loosen enough that they can move to fill the gaps created by cuts.
  • After they cool down to about 25 degrees Celsius, the robots are as good as new.
  • This healing process can be repeated indefinitely. But, it's not just melting and re-forming the robots, Vanderborght says. The heat changes the elastomer so it can move, but melting the material would destroy it, he says.

What's next:

The goal, according to Vanderborght, is to create robots that are able to sense when they are hurt. For example, a robot might detect increased exposure to air through the gap created by a cut. This sensory ability combined with engineering that allows scientists to place self-activating heat sources within the robots could be used to build soft robots that can detect their injuries and start the healing cycle by themselves.

Go deeper

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Trump to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations before leaving office

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump plans to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations on his final full day in office Tuesday, sources familiar with the matter told Axios.

Why it matters: This is a continuation of the president's controversial December spree that saw full pardons granted to more than two dozen people — including former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, longtime associate Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, the father of Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

  • The pardons set to be issued before Trump exits the White House will be a mix of criminal justice ones and pardons for people connected to the president, the sources said.
  • CNN first reported this news.

Go deeper: Convicts turn to D.C. fixers for Trump pardons

Schumer's m(aj)ority checklist

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Capitalizing on the Georgia runoffs, achieving a 50-50 Senate and launching an impeachment trial are weighty to-dos for getting Joe Biden's administration up and running on Day One.

What to watch: A blend of ceremonies, hearings and legal timelines will come into play on Tuesday and Wednesday so Chuck Schumer can actually claim the Senate majority and propel the new president's agenda.

The dark new reality in Congress

National Guard troops keep watch at security fencing. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

This is how bad things are for elected officials and others working in a post-insurrection Congress:

  • Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) said she had a panic attack while grocery shopping back home.
  • Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said police may also have to be at his constituent meetings.
  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) told a podcaster he brought a gun to his office on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6 because he anticipated trouble with the proceedings that day.

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