Breakthrough: Scientists Create Electronic Sensor as Sensitive as Human SkinTechnology Tuesday, July 31st, 2012
We can all tell whether something is pressing down on our skin, brushing it or twisting against it — but it’s not so easy for a robot or other inanimate objects to figure these things out.
A recent breakthrough could make that possible, however.
A new type of hairy electronic skin could soon make robots adept at feeling a slight breath of air or the faint beatings of a heart. This new sensor, which is even more sensitive than human skin, could have wide applications in prosthetic limbs, heart-rate monitors and robotics.
Kahp-Yang Suh and colleagues at Seoul National University in South Korea were inspired to create the flexible touch sensor by beetle wing-locking structures, which are composed of two layers of interlocking hairs, much like two hair brushes meshed together.
In Suh’s version, Nature News reports:
“the ‘hairs’ are sheets of polymer fibres that are 100 nanometres in diameter and one micrometre long, and coated with metal to make them electrically conductive. When the sheets are sandwiched together, the nanohairs are attracted to one another and locked in …. The device is then wired up so that an electrical current can be applied, and covered in a layer of soft, protective polymer.”