Artificial Skin That Senses and Stretches, Like the Real Thing
It's like real skin:
The polymer is infused with dense networks of sensors made of ultrathin gold and silicon. The normally brittle silicon is configured in serpentine shapes that can elongate to allow for stretchability. Details of the work are published today in the journal Nature Communications.
Stretchable sensing materials have been in development for years (see “Stretchable Silicon” and “Making Stretchable Electronics”). But this is the most sensitive material yet, with as many as 400 sensors per square millimeter.
“If you have these sensors at high resolution across the finger, you can give the same tactile touch that the normal hand would convey to the brain,” says Roozbeh Ghaffari, who contributed to the research and heads advanced technology development at MC10, a startup in Cambridge, Massachusetts, developing wearable products based on flexible, sensor-laden materials.
What’s more, the researchers tuned the sensors to have the right stretching ranges depending where on a hand they’d be located. They used motion-capture cameras to study how a real hand moves and stretches, and then applied varying silicon shapes to different spots on the prosthetic skin to accommodate that stretchability.