Scientists at the University of Glasgow have developed a solar-powered synthetic skin that mimics the sense of touch. It does so without using expensive touch sensors that are used in more conventional prosthetic limbs. And everything is processed through the embedded solar cells and tiny LEDs.
The solar cells embedded in the skin can generate enough energy to power the micro-actuators that control the prosthetic hand's movements. The solar cells are also responsible for providing a unique sense of touch by measuring objects' shadows.
Since this prototype's energy source is the synthetic skin itself, Professor Ravinder Dahiya, research lead at the university's James Watt School of Engineering, said that it's also capable of powering the hand as well as the devices attached to it.
This iteration also consists of supercapacitors, devices that hold an electrical charge, allowing the synthetic skin to continue operating even when there's no daylight.
A unique sense of touch
The solar cells work double-time to provide the prosthetic limb a unique sense of touch. It uses the approaching objects' shadow to calculate its shape.
When this capability is combined with data from the LED-produced infrared light (which can sense distance), the e-skin, in effect, has a sense of touch.
This prototype's prosthetic hand has been taught to grasp objects, like rubber balls. When used on a robotic arm, the synthetic skin can detect the presence of unexpected things, potentially preventing industrial accidents.
This progress is a step closer to creating a completely self-powered prosthetic limb shrouded in flexible skin made from relatively inexpensive parts. Furthermore, the e-skin's sensing capabilities could lead to a version that can identify approaching objects before making contact.What do you think of this new development?