Scientists developed a smart skin that is more sensitive than humans. Researchers at the University of Glasgow have developed a self-powered, electronic robotic hand that is more sensitive to touch than a human hand.
An electrical engineer at the University of Glasgow, Ravinder Dahiya said this sensor is a step for more lightweight prosthetic limbs for people as well as more natural feelings in soft-skinned bodies. It can give a skin-like sense and it is more useful for amputees.
The smart skin can produce its own energy from sun’s rays. This would operate longer than any other similar materials powered by batteries or tethered to a power source that would also limit portability.
The study has been published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.
This new skin is made of a single atomic layer of graphene and it is basically a touch sensor. This new sensor needs 20 nanowatts of power per square centimetre to operate.
He explained a solar panel is located under the surface of the clear graphene skin. “Whatever light is available, 98 percent is going and hitting the solar cell. It is generating power that can be used to get the sensitivity, the tactile feeling.”
The engineers attached a layer of power-generating photovoltaic cells to the back of a sensor-laden prosthetic hand. Graphene is a flexible material which is stronger than steel, electrically conductive and transparent.
The team said, “The transparency of the touch-sensitive layer is considered a key feature to allow photovoltaic cell to harvest effectively light.”
The team then gave the hand to perform exercises like grasping soft balls which the hand did successfully.
Dahiya said, “The other next step for us is to further develop the power-generation technology which underpins this research and use it to power the motors which drive the prosthetic hand itself. This could allow the creation of an entirely energy-autonomous prosthetic limb.”
The touch-sensitive electronic skin could be used in robots to improve performance and help the machines to detect possible dangers when interacting with humans.