A team of researchers at the University of Connecticut and University of Toronto — consisting of engineers, chemists, and biologists — have developed a new of sensor designed to let artificial skin detect pressure, vibrations, and magnetic fields. With these developments, it’s possible that this technology might be able to allow burn victims and amputees regain the sense of touch via the artificial skin.
The process of creating this new sensor for the prosthetic skin involved Islam Mosa (a postdoctoral fellow at UConn) and his team took a silicone tube wrapped in copper wire, then filled the tube with an iron oxide nanoparticle fluid. When these nanoparticles moved around the tube, an electrical current is created and then detected by the copper wire. Whenever the tube encountered pressure, this would change the current, creating a simulation-of-sorts of how human skin senses environmental changes; its also possible that this
artificial skin could feel magnetic field and vibrations via sound wave.
In an interview with Digital Trends, Mosa explains:
“The type of artificial skin we developed can be called an electronic skin or e-skin. It is a new group of smart wearable electronics that are flexible, stretchable, shapable, and possess unique sensing capabilities that mimic human skin. A big motivation to develop this e-skin sensor was to extend the capabilities of this technology to superhuman abilities. We proved that e-skin can alarm humans of the surrounding danger before accidents happen.”Digital Trends
Next, this research team — who have launched a company in order to commercialize the invention in the future — is aiming to flatten the tubular prototype so it can better resemble a layer of skin, function more effectively, and ensure it is completely biocompatible. Of course, next would be finding a good price point (the current prototype costs less than $5 per sensor), then research & development, testing, and finally, U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval. Check out this paper detailing their work , which was published last week in the Advanced Materials journal.