Scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences have created electronic skin that is sensitive enough to detect changes in wind direction, droplets falling, and the movement of ants.
Scientists have published a paper about their achievements in the journal Science Robotics, in which they described e-skin technology and its possible applications.
Experts continue to improve the appearance and capabilities of robots - and one of the main areas of research is the skin. Robotics engineers want to develop human-like electronic skin. It is believed that the robots of the future need to “feel” in order to perform complex but delicate actions. It is about reacting to temperature, noticing changes in textures, or processing pleasant sensations. Scientists from China have been able to take an important step in improving the sensitivity of e-skin.
The new skin is able to register small changes in pressure and convert this information into pulses. The scientists covered the magnetic sensors with a hollow polymer membrane and then embedded magnetic beads on top of it. When pressure is applied, the diaphragm is pushed in, causing the built-in beads to move closer to the sensor. The resulting resistance is then sent to the electronic circuit. The circuit converts the signals into a series of pulses of different frequencies, reflecting the intensity of the pressure that the skin "felt".
Electronic skin capable of “pulsing” in response to pressure / © Wu et.al.
The researchers created an artificial finger covered with e-skin and attached it to the artificial hand for testing. They report that the skin they created was able to generate impulses in response to even the slightest pressure exerted on it by ants running across the surface. She was also able to register changes in wind speed and the difference in the size of water droplets falling on her.
Engineers report that in some cases, electronic skin recorded changes in pressure even better than human skin. They believe the development could be useful in robotics and improve the performance of artificial limbs.