Posts Tagged ‘artificial skin’

Artificial Skin That “Feels” Temperature Changes

Reporter: Irina Robu, PhD

Engineers and scientists at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and ETH Zurich developed an artificial skin capable of detecting temperature changes using a mechanism similar to the biological mechanism that allow snakes to sense prey through heat.  In those organs, ion channels in the cell membrane of sensory nerve fibers expand as temperature increases. This dilation allows calcium ions to flow, triggering electrical impulses.

The material used is a long chain molecule found in plant cells which gives the skin its temperature sensing capabilities. The team chose pectin because the pectin molecules in the film have a weakly bonded double-strand structure that contains calcium ions. As temperature increases, these bonds break down and the double strands “unzip,” releasing the positively charged calcium ions.

This would make pectin sensors useful for industrial applications, such as thermal sensors in consumer electronics or robotic skins to augment human-robot interactions. However, they need to change the fabrication process as that the current process leads to the presence of water which tends to bubble or evaporate at high temperatures.



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Artificially intelligent synthetic skin interacts with brain cells.

Reported by: Irina Robu, PhD

Currently, the traditional ways of dealing with large losses of skin is to use skin grafts from the patient or from an unrelated donor or cadaver. The medical community has been looking for an alternative in dealing with large losses of skin. 

The researchers at Stanford University State created an artificial skin that can detect how hard is being pressed and produce an electric signal to deliver this sensory input directly to a living brain cell. To understand the pressure sensing capability electronically, the team dispersed billions of carbon nano tubes through waffled plastic which shows that the two-ply construct allows it to mimic human skin which transmits pressure information as short pulses of electricity to the skin. The results show that increasing the pressure on the waffled nanotubes, which allows more electricity to flow through the sensor and send short pulses to the sensing mechanism. However, when pressure is removed the flow relaxes which indicates light touch, but when the pressure and pulses are removed there is no sensation.

The study added a layer of artificial skin to cover the pressure sensing mechanism. Results indicate that the top layer creates a sensing mechanism and the bottom layer acts as a circuit to transport electric signals and translate them into the biochemical stimuli compatible with nerve cells.  

The team concluded that there are six types of biological sensing mechanisms in the human hand, and their experiment reports success in just one of them.



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