A team of researchers led by an Indian-origin engineer developed an electronic skin that feels pain

A team of researchers led by an Indian-origin engineer developed an electronic skin that feels pain
University of Glasgow
  • Researchers have created an electronic skin that can feel pain.
  • The working of artificial skin is based on synaptic transistors that eliminate the response time.
  • This research may open new doors for the development of touch-sensitive robots.
A team of researchers led by Professor Ravinder Dahiya, an Indian-origin engineer in the UK, has developed an electronic skin capable of sensing pain. According to the team, it could help them to create a next-gen series of robots with human-like sensitivity.

Professor Ravinder Dahiya comes from the University of Glasgow’s James Watt School of Engineering. He says believes the research takes us a step forward in creating a large-scale neuromorphic printed e-skin capable of responding to stimuli.

The news was shared by the University of Glasgow's Twitter handle.
The study was published in the paper titled 'Printed Synaptic Transistors based Electronic Skin for Robots to Feel and Learn' in the journal Science Robotics. According to the researcher, the development of the electronic skin is the latest breakthrough in stretchable, flexible printing technology from Glasgow's Bendable Electronics and Sensing Technologies (BEST) group.
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Earlier, scientists have been working on building artificial skin with touch sensitivity capabilities. Some of the explored methods include the use of pressure sensors across the electronic skin surface allowing it to detect when comes in contact. Received data from the sensors is sent to a computer for processing. The large volume of data takes time to process which leads to a delay in response reducing the effectiveness of artificial skin in the real world.

The new form of electronic skin from Glasgow University draws inspiration from a different human peripheral nervous system that interprets signals from the skin eliminating the response time. As soon the e-skin receives an input, the system process the data at the point of contact. This makes sure only the vital information is being sent to the brain.

To enhance the capabilities of electronic skin, Professor Ravinder Dahiya and his team printed a grid of 168 synaptic transistors (computing system that performs signal processing) onto the surface of artificial skin. They connected the synaptic transistors with the skin sensors that are present over the human-shaped robot hand.

When these sensors are touched they register changes in their electrical resistance system. Light touch creates light resistance and harder touch creates larger resistance.

Potential applications of electronic skin
Researchers from the University of Utah have developed a prosthetic arm- LUKE arm that mimics a sense of human touch. The LUKE arm uses an array of microelectrodes implanted in the prosthetic arm that are connected to a computer. It allows better communication between the prosthetic arm and brain. Though the arm is limited to nineteen touch sensors it can only move in limited directions.

Incorporating electronic skin into the LUKE arm can open new doors for researchers allowing them to develop next-gen prosthetic limbs.

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