BEACON TRANSCRIPT – One of the greatest challenges in robotics is essentially creating a sense of touch so that the machine can actually feel the objects it interacts with. However, researchers believe they have now made a major breakthrough that will allow them to create a stretchable artificial skin for robots. This material, developed by scientists, will allow for far more sensitivity and an ability to detect temperature. This is something robotics masters have been trying to discover for decades.
The Android Artificial Skin
The study, published in the journal Science Advances, was conducted at the University of Houston in Texas. It details a system of nanowires embedded in a rubbery composite of semiconductors and conductors. It uses materials already common in manufacturing, and it could likely be scaled up quickly into production.
“Our strategy has advantages for simple fabrication, scalable manufacturing, high-density integration, large strain tolerance and low cost,” said an assistant professor of mechanical engineering involved with the research, Cunjiang Yu.
In the study, the researchers claim this new material can retain its full functionality even when stretched by up to fifty percent. When used on a robotic hand, it can tell the difference between a cup with hot or cold liquids in it. It also can help the hand speak in sign language and reveal what it felt.
Traditional semiconductors are usually brittle, and that is why this technology has been so difficult to develop. This new composite matrix, basically a stretchable artificial skin, allows for far more sensitivity and a more life-like appearance.
There are also many more potential applications for this technology. This is especially true in the realms of medical implants, health monitoring, and human to machine interfaces. Even surgical gloves could be improved.
“We foresee that this strategy of enabling elastomeric semiconductors by percolating semiconductor nanofibrils into a rubber will advance the development of stretchable semiconductors,” they wrote in the report.
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