A new type of material is able to detect pressure and transmit that information directly to the brain.
Prosthetic limbs and brain-computer interfaces have seen significant advances over the last few years and now scientists at the University of Stanford in California have come up with something else that could one day make it possible for an amputee to regain the ability to touch and feel.
The artificial skin, which is made from a flexible multi-layered material, is capable of not only picking up how hard it is being pressed but can also communicate that information to the wearer’s brain.
“This is the first time a flexible, skin-like material has been able to detect pressure and also transmit a signal to a component of the nervous system,” said chemical engineer Professor Zhenan Bao.
Skin is notoriously difficult to reproduce artificially – especially given the numerous functions it can perform such as the ability to heal up after injury and to sense how hot or cold something is.
While right now the new artificial skin can only sense pressure, the engineers who developed it are hoping that it can eventually be made to feel textures and sense temperature as well.
“We have a lot of work to take this from experimental to practical applications,” said Bao. “But after spending many years in this work, I now see a clear path where we can take our artificial skin.”