Robots of the future could learn to grasp and pick up delicate objects thanks to a new material inspired by human skin.
Experts have built a touch-based tactile sensor that detects pressure and sends out an electric pulse in response to touch.As well as its applications for smart devices, thisbreakthrough could lead to prosthetic limbs that let people with disabilities feel again the sense of touch.
A research team, including members of the faculty at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, has been working on replicating the experience of pressurized human touch.
The technology may represent a critical step forward in the development of smart prosthetics that can functionally replace – or potentially even surpass – the sensing ability of natural limbs, the researchers say.
Human skin perceives pressure as part of touch, which is then transformed into signals to nerves that finally reach the brain, creating a pulse-like feeling.
Yuanzhao Wu and colleagues developed an e-skin system that can convert pressure from touch to internal electric signals. Interestingly, in some cases, the pulses responded to pressures exceeding the sensing threshold value of humans.
The skin is composed of a hollow polymer membrane with magnetic particles on its top surface. When pressure is applied to the magnet-dotted membrane roof, the membrane inverts, causing the magnetic particles on the top to inch toward the magnetic sensor on the inside.
The resulting resistance created is transmitted as signals using an electrical circuit, and these signals are converted as pulses with various frequencies that increased with greater pressure. During an experiment conducted on an artificial finger equipped with the e-skin, the e-skin was able to perceive the subtlest touches, such as the wind blowing.
In subsequent experiments, the e-skin was also able to detect and pulse in response to drops of water that contained different volumes.
Source: “Daily Mail”