Vote 2020 graphic
Everything you need to know about and expect during
the most important election of our lifetimes

Hairy Electronic Skin That Lets Robots Feel

Illustration for article titled Hairy Electronic Skin That Lets Robots Feel

A coating of hairy electronic skin could soon help robots feel the slightest breath of air or detect the faint vibrations of a beating heart.

Advertisement

Kahp-Yang Suh and colleagues at Seoul National University in South Korea wove together thousands of individual polymer nanohairs to make a flexible touch sensor that is more sensitive than human skin.

The idea for the device came from the interlocking of cells in human hair and organs.These organically woven-together cells translate inputs of force into electrical signals that are then interpreted by the brain. Similar to their organic counterparts, the 50-nanometre-wide hairs of Suh's device twist and bend against each other when an external force like a beating heart or a soft touch is applied.

Advertisement

The contact between the hairs generates an electrical current which the sensor identifies as specific changes in pressure, shear or torsion. These results are displayed on a computer monitor in real time.

Researchers demonstrated the sensor's extreme sensitivity in more than 10,000 test cycles. It could detect the dynamic motion of a tiny water droplet bouncing on a hydrophobic plate and the physical force of a heartbeat. A skin of hairy sensors like these could clothe prosthetic limbs and robots. [Journal reference: Nature Materials]

Image by Changhyun Pang et al


Illustration for article titled Hairy Electronic Skin That Lets Robots Feel
Advertisement

New Scientist reports, explores and interprets the results of human endeavour set in the context of society and culture, providing comprehensive coverage of science and technology news.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

benvezzani
Wait, where'd I put my glasses?

Wow, but still... You often see articles or publications about a University research group making awesome advances, but many of these weren't really anything new, just presented that way.

Does anyone know if anything like this has been done before? I sure don't think I've seen anything about robot touch sensors before.