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Communications of the ACM

ACM TechNews

Stretchy Artificial 'Skin' Could Give Robots a Sense of Touch


A robotic hand with intrinsically stretchable rubbery sensors.

University of Houston researchers have developed rubberized electronics and sensors that can serve as a robot's artificial skin.

Credit: Cunjiang Yu

Rubberized electronics and sensors that function normally when stretched up to half of their length could operate as artificial skin on robots, according to a University of Houston study.

The skin, which can perceive strain, pressure, and temperature, was used in experiments to accurately sense the temperature of hot and cold water in a cup, as well as to convert computer signals transmitted to a robot hand into finger gestures representing the alphabet of American Sign Language.

The researchers say their innovation solves two key issues--the challenge of mass semiconducting polymer production due to cost or complexity, and the efficiency of electron transmission through the material.

They mixed inexpensive nanowires with polydimethylsiloxane to fabricate an elastic material serving as a stable semiconductor that can be scaled up for manufacturing.

The team applied strips of the material to the robot hand's fingers, which then acted as a sensor that produced different electrical signals when the fingers bent.

From Live Science
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