Wonderful Engineering

Scientists Have Successfully Developed An Electronic Skin That Can Feel

A team of scientists has successfully developed an electronic artificial skin that can replicate the human skin. The new electronic skin is capable of detecting a range of tactile stimuli including temperature, pressure or object slippage within milliseconds without making any comprises in terms of precision or accuracy. Furthermore, electronic skin can be used even when it is partially damaged.

The research team hails from the National University of Singapore and has already reported its finding in Science Robotics this month. Despite the impressiveness of this team’s work, other breakthroughs have already been accomplished before it. Another group of researchers from the same university has already reported its success in developing a self-healing and stretchy electronic skin that has been inspired by jellyfish.

However, the previously reported touch-sensitive electronic skins generally transmitted data either in a series or a sequence using its sensors. This caused slow responsiveness and required intricate networks of wires. This approach also made it quite a challenge to render the artificial skin more responsive and keeping it operational after it had sustained damage.

Wang Wei Lee, along with his team, has managed to develop ‘Asynchronously Coded Electronic Skin’ known as ACES in short. This amazing technology allows simultaneous and fast transmission of sensory perception information with high resolution and precision from more than 10,000 sensors. Although solutions similar to ACES do exist, this particular electronic skin has been created using embedded sensors that are connected using only a single and continuous wire. This means that even when some sensors are damaged or get disconnected within the network, the sensors that remain can continue to function.

The team took their inspiration from nature for this new artificial electronic skin. Simply by trying to copy the human call-and-response pathways that exist in the human nervous system, the team was able to come up with an amazing solution for the future electronic skin. The new electronic skin will have a number of uses once it is further developed. It can be used for androids, future prosthetics, or even find their applications in computer hardware. The original study was published in the journal Science Robotics.