Smart Artificial Skin Feels Rain and The Touch of a Hand

A team of South Korean and American scientists has designed "smart skin." an amazing development in prosthetics that will allow amputees to actually feel their environment. Developed at Seoul National University, this artifical skin is made of a soft polymer ( a compound that consists of large molecules made of many chemically bonded smaller, identical molecules) known as elastomer. This compound contains dense networks of sensors relating to pressure, temperature and humidity as well as stretchable electrodes that stimulate  existing nerves.


Artificial Skin: Source: EngadgetArtificial Skin: Source: Engadget


Developing a prosthetic that feels like real skin

Researchers have struggled to develop an artificial skin that acts and even feels like the real thing. In order to construct a smart skin that is both durable and flexible, they shot many images of clenched fists and tilting wrists with a dozen special cameras in order to capture how a real hand moves and stretches and the precise spots where stretching capacity is at its maximum.

In the words of Kim Dae-Hyeong, who led the project on this incredible smart skin:

"This provides the highest sensitivity allowed in that specific location while minimizing the possibility of mechanical fractures of sensors...Previously, these prosthetic arms/legs did not have skins that enabled high resolution sensing of presssure, strain, temperature, humidity ...We focused on this pont by developing a high density sensor array that is similar to real human skin."


Smart Skin With Sensors: Source:Technology review.comSmart Skin With Sensors: Source:Technology


Specialfeatures of this smart skin

Up until now, the focus on prosthetics has been on appearance and functionality, but little attention has been paid to how the device can glean important information from its environment. Researchers have now demonstrated how the new smart skin can sense pressure from catching a ball as well as distinguish the temperature between a cup of hot or cold water. This skin can tell wet from dry and contains electro-resistive heaters that simulate body heat.


Smart Skin Logo: Source: Plus.Google.comSmart Skin Logo: Source:


The future of "smart skin"

According to team leader, Kim, they have patented the research,  but it will be some time before artificial skin reaches the marketplace. They have demonstrated their system in rats and other small amimals, but the complicated array of sensors that emulate real-sensory functions of the human being is the next step. In his own words: " I hope  a robotic limb with this synthetic skin can be used by disabled people. For industrial uses, it can be applied to various types of robots, like a humanoid robot."

Smart skin is absolutely amazing when viewed from any angle.

Closing thoughts on prosthetics:

Whether it's your glasses, your contacts, or a hip replacement, knee replacement or a pacemaker, the prosthetic generation is all around us. ~ Aimee Mullins

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