Artificial skin becomes real possibility

Posted by a staff writer

A team of US and Chinese scientists has managed to come up with an experimental sensor array that can sense pressure like a human fingertip.   

The breakthrough could speed up the development of artificial skin capable of feeling activity on the surface. Additionally the same technology could be applied to robots, giving them a sense of touch, the BBC reports.

The scientists used bundles of vertical zinc oxide nanowires to build the arrays consisting of about 8,000 transistors. Each transistor can independently produce an electronic signal when placed under mechanical pressure and they can match the human finger in terms of sensitivity. 

Rather than using resistance to detect mechanical pressure, the scientists used piezoelectricity to get an electric response from their array. Therefore they had to use materials that have both piezoelectric and semiconducting properties, including nanowires and certain thin films.

"Any mechanical motion, such as the movement of arms or the fingers of a robot, could be translated to control signals," said Zhong Lin Wang, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology."This could make artificial skin smarter and more like the human skin. It would allow the skin to feel activity on the surface."