Two research teams at UC Berkeley and Stanford University have each developed an artificial skin that registers a wide range of pressure comparable to the response of human skin. Both “e-skins,” less than a millimeter thick, are made of nanowire hairs printed on a matrix and connected to a layer of conductive rubber that changes its electrical resistance when compressed.
The change in resistance, even as slight as the pressure of a butterfly landing, could be transmitted through the prosthetic limb or to the “nervous system” of a robot. The micropattern of circuitry, printed on 2.7” square matrices, retains elasticity while sending a strong signal; fabricators say the process could potentially be scaled up to larger materials for biomedical and artificial intelligence applications.
Reuters notes that both the Stanford and Berkeley teams were “indirectly supported by the US Department of Defense,” whose advances in body armor have saved lives, but resulted in an increased need for artificial limbs.
Image: "Skinless Robot Face" by defwheezer on Flickr via Creative Commons Licensing.Tweet