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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

New artificial skin could send the sensation of pressure to the brain

The Stanford engineers create a "skin" of plastic that can detect how hard the pressure and generates electrical signals to transmit sensory input directly into alive brain cells.

Zhenan Bao, a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford University in California, spent a decade developing materials that can mimic the skin's ability to flex and heal but also can be a sensor that sends a signal nets touch, temperature and pain to the brain.
Engineers from Stanford University make artificial skin that can distinguish subtle touch and a firm handshake. The device on the "golden fingertip" is the skin-like sensor developed by Stanford engineers. (Picture from: http://stanford.io/1OGagak)
Eventually he wants to make fabric flexible electronics with sensors that can close a prosthetic leg and replicate some sensory functions of the skin.

Bao's work, published in the journal Science on Thursday, October 15, 2015, bring it forward one step to the goal to replicate one aspect of touch, sensory mechanism that allows us to distinguish the different pressure between a weak handshakes and strong grip.

"It's the first time a similar material flexible skin can detect pressure and also sends a signal to a component of the nervous system," said Bao, who led the research team consists of 17 members who are responsible for the outcomes.

The heart of the technique is the two plastic layers: the top layer that creates a sensing mechanism and a bottom layer that acts as a circuit to carry electrical signals and translate them into appropriate biochemical stimuli to the nerve cells.

The top layer in new work featuring a sensor that can detect the pressure with a range similar to human skin, from mild to pat fingers handshake.

Five years ago,  the first Bao's team member describes how to use plastic and rubber as a pressure sensor by measuring the natural resilience of their molecular structure.

They then increase the pressure sensitivity of this nature by identifying the waffle pattern becomes thin plastic, by compressing the plastic molecular elasticity.

To exploit the electronic pressure sensing capabilities, the team spread billions of carbon nanotubes to plastic waffle. Put pressure on the plastic squeezing nanotubes be adjacent to each other and allow them to conduct electricity.

This allows the plastic sensors mimic human skin, which transmit pressure information as a short pulse of electricity, such as Morse code, to the brain.

Increasing pressure on waffle nanotubes will make them squashed so close together, allowing more electricity flows through the sensor, and it's varied impulses are sent as a short pulse to the sensing mechanism.

The pressure drop makes the flow rate slacken, shows a light touch, and when all the pressure was removed, the pulse stopped altogether.

The team then linked the pressure sensing mechanism to the second tier of their artificial skin, flexible electronic circuits that can carry electrical impulses to the nerve cells, such as reported by Stanford University website. *** [EKA | FROM VARIOUS SOURCES | STANFORD NEWS]
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