Sep 19, 2010
Artificial skin projects could restore feeling to wearers of prosthetic limbs
Research groups at Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley are developing sensor-based artificial skin that could provide prosthetic and robotic limbs with a realistic sense of touch. Stanford's project is based on organic electronics and is capable of detecting the weight of a fly upon the artificial skin, according to Zhenan Bao, professor of chemical engineering at Stanford.
The highly sensitive surfaces could also help robots pick up delicate objects without breaking them, improve surgeons' control over tools used for minimally invasive surgery, and increase efficiency of touch screen devices, she noted. Meanwhile, UC Berkeley's "e-skin" uses low-power, integrated arrays of nanowire transistors, according to UC Berkeley Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Ali Javey.
Thus far, the skin, the first ever made out of inorganic single crystalline semiconductors, is able to detect pressure equivalent to the touch of a keyboard. "It's a technique that can be potentially scaled up," said study lead author Kuniharu Takei, post-doctoral fellow in electrical engineering and computer sciences at UC Berkeley. "The limit now to the size of the e-skin we developed is the size of the processing tools we are using."