Teams around the world are working to develop flexible versions of
synthetic skin that can feel by mimicking the different kinds of
sensory receptors found in human skin.
Powering such systems is a challenge, but now researchers at the
University of Glasgow's School of Engineering have developed a way
to use graphene, an ultra-thin form of carbon, to generate
electricity via solar power.
Graphene, which is just one atom thick, is strong, highly flexible,
electrically conductive and transparent, making it ideal for
gathering the sun's energy to generate power, the scientists said on
Smart prosthetic hands, in particular, can already reproduce many
mechanical properties of human limbs and giving them a skin-like
sense of touch would make them even more useful for amputees.
Touch-sensitive electronic skin could also be used in robots to
enhance performance and help the machines detect potential dangers
when interacting with humans.
Ravinder Dahiya and his team described how they had integrated
power-generating photovoltaic cells into their electronic skin in
the journal Advanced Functional Materials.
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The next goal is to use the same technology to power the motors need
to drive a prosthetic hand. "This could allow the creation of an
entirely energy-autonomous prosthetic limb," Dahiya said.
(Reporting by Ben Hirschler, editing by Louise Heavens)
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