Hair May Give Robots Sensitive Electronic SkinCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: August 2, 2012 01:30PM
Since the first robots were made to pick up delicate objects, we have been trying to give them a sense of touch. Touch is an important sense for humans not only to prevent us from breaking objects, but also hurting ourselves. Replicating it with technology has been proving difficult but researchers at Seoul National University, as reported by New Scientist, have devised a hairy solution, literally.
The researchers realized that there are examples in the human body of cells interlocking to translate force into an electrical signal nerves can interpret. This led them to developing polymer nanohairs that are woven together such that they bend and twist against each other. Contact between the hairs creates an electric current, which is interpreted as a change in pressure, shear, or torsion and displayed on a computer in real-time.
This synthetic skin approach is actually more sensitive than our own skin as it detected the jumping motion of a water droplet on a hydrophobic plate. Having already survived over 10,000 test cycles as well, the researchers believe this skin could one day be used on robots and even prosthetic limbs.