The Street Way

New 'SMART SKIN' so sensitive it rivals the real thing

Using what they  are calling " mechanical agitation," researchers out of the Georgia Institute of Technology say they have developed arrays that can sense touch with the same level of sensitivity as the human fingertip which could result in better bots and prosthetic.

The transparent and flexible arrays use about 8,000 tassels, which are touch-sensitive transistors that  can  generate piezoelectric signals independently - meaning they emit electricity when mechanically agitated. As the researchers  report this week in the journal Science   each of  those thousands of transistors comprises a bundle of some 1,500 zinc oxide nano-wires, which connect to electrodes via a thin layer of gold , enabling the arrays to pick up on changes in  pressure as low as 10 kilo-pascals -- which is what human skin can detect.

"Any mechanical motion, such as the movement of arms or the fingers of a robot, could be translated to control signals," lead author Zhong Lin Wang  of Georgia Tech's school of materials Science and Engineering said in a news release. " This could make artificial skin smarter and more like the human skin . It would allow the skin to feel activity on the surface."

Mimicking the sense of touch electronically has long been the dream of many a  researcher and has been accomplished by measuring changes in resistance . But the team at Georgia Tech experimented with a different approach , measuring tiny  polarization changes when piezoelectric materials such as Zinc oxide ( In which current can accumulate ) are placed under mechanical stress. In these transistors, then, piezoelectric charges control the flow of current through the nano-wires.

Time will tell whether this tech will find its way into military uses; the work is funded by the Defense Advanced  Research Project Agency, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S Department of  Energy, the National Science Foundation, and the Knowledge Innovation  Program of the Chinese Academy of Science .

Topics:Future tech, Robots, Science, Health tech 
Tags: robots, smart skin, transistors ,nanowires, prosthetics


Post a Comment