The Smartest Artificial Skin

Alessia Andreotti
December 11th 2014

Prosthetic limbs controlled by the power of thought already exist. But what if they could also sense the environment and send information to the amputee’s nervous system?

We talked about the Electric Skin and the Nano Skin, that are able to pick up on tactile information. But the new artificial skin designed by scientists in South Korea may be the smartest one. It’s stretchy, like real skin, and it can sense pressure, temperature, and humidity. It even has a built-in heater so it feels like living tissue.

Described in a paper recently published in Nature Communications, the new skin is composed of a flexible, transparent silicone material called polydimethylsiloxane. Embedded within it are silicon nanoribbons that generate electricity when they're squished or stretched, providing a source of tactile feedback. They can also sense whether an object is hot or cold.

The humidity sensors are made up of capacitors. When the polymer surrounding a capacitor absorbs water, the moisture changes the polymer's ability to store a charge. The capacitors measure that storage change and use it to determine the moisture levels of the environment.

Researchers tested the artificial skin on a prosthetic hand and they hope in the future it will interface with a patient’s nerves, so amputees can feel everything the fake skin feels.

Source: Popular Science

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