Oct 20, 2015 02:34 AM EDT
A team of Engineers in Stanford University has finally created a skin like material that can sense pressure and send information directly to the brain. This type of technology has taken a great step towards the creation of prosthetic limbs that can actually feel and senses touch.
The engineers called their creation a virtual skin. This material is a flexible fabric that is full of sensors that can be put over the prosthetic part of the body, making it work something like a real skin. According to Zhenan Bao a Chemical Engineering Professor at Stanford, that this is actually the first time that a flexible skin like material has been able to sense pressure and at the same time transmit signal to the nervous system.
The plastic skin was built with two different layers. The top layer functions as a mechanism for sensing. While the second layer transmits electrical signals into biochemical stimuli in order for the nerve cells to receive.
Bao spent the last 10 years in developing a material that can resemble the functions of human skin. Apparently it is more than difficult to replicate something that flex freely, can heal and send every information of touch in the human brain in an artificial way.
Five years ago, the team of Engineers with Bao describe how to use rubbers and plastics as pressure sensors. They stated that pressure can be measured by the natural springiness of the material's molecular structure. After that they then increased the natural pressure sensitivity through indenting the a waffle pattern into the plastic, resulting in a much further compression of the material's molecular springs. To enable the pressure sensing ability electronically, they scattered billions of carbon nanotubes In the waffle plastic. The pressure on the plastic, then squeezes the nanotubes closer to each other, thus enabling them to conduct electricity. This process makes the plastic sensor to copy the ability of human skin.