Science Blast! At Last, a Sense of Touch for Our Robot Brothers!

Scientists use graphene to power
‘electronic skin’ that can feel

Ravinder Dahiya of the University of Glasgow’s School of Engineering poses with the prosthetic hand developed by his team at Glasgow University, Scotland, Britain March 11, 2017. Photographic Unit University of Glasgow/Handout via REUTERS

Ravinder Dahiya of the University of Glasgow’s School of Engineering poses with the prosthetic hand developed by his team at Glasgow University, Scotland, Britain March 11, 2017. Photographic Unit University of Glasgow/Handout via REUTERS

Scientists have found a way to power an experimental kind of electronic skin using solar energy in a further step towards the development of prosthetic limbs or robots with a sense of touch.

Teams around the world are working to develop flexible versions of synthetic skin that can feel by mimicking the different kinds of sensory receptors found in human skin.

Powering such systems is a challenge, but now researchers at the University of Glasgow’s School of Engineering have developed a way to use graphene, an ultra-thin form of carbon, to generate electricity via solar power.

Graphene, which is just one atom thick, is strong, highly flexible, electrically conductive and transparent, making it ideal for gathering the sun’s energy to generate power, the scientists said on Thursday.

Smart prosthetic hands, in particular, can already reproduce many mechanical properties of human limbs and giving them a skin-like sense of touch would make them even more useful for amputees.

Touch-sensitive electronic skin could also be used in robots to enhance performance and help the machines detect potential dangers when interacting with humans.

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