SKINS – SCI & TECH
The finer touch: when
‘artificial skin’ is more sensitive than the original
in the news?
Researchers at TU Graz in Austria have
received funding to examine real-life applications for their successful
‘artificial skin’ prototype that can reportedly ‘feel’ more than the real
Artificial skins are a series of materials
that try to emulate the functionality of
Dr Coclite and her team had succeeded in
developing a three in one “smart skin” hybrid material, which closely resembles
human skin by simultaneously sensing pressure, moisture and temperature and
converting them into electronic signals.
With 2,000 individual sensors per square
millimetre, the hybrid material is more sensitive than a human fingertip,
giving it its reputation, and, at 0.006 millimetres thick, many times thinner
than human skin.
The team says that by reacting to these
three human sensory impressions, the smart skin prototype surpasses all
electronic skin materials on the market to date which only react to pressure
Fundamental to artificial skin, these
materials change thickness based on variations in temperature and humidity.
This responsiveness mimics the natural behaviour
of human skin, allowing the artificial skin to adapt to environmental
When compressed or stretched, these
materials generate an electric current.
In the context of artificial skin, they
play a crucial role in sensing pressure and force, providing feedback similar
to human touch.
Often, artificial skin involves the
integration of nanostructures, such as nanorods.
These structures contribute to the
material's sensitivity, enabling it to detect minute changes in the
The piezoelectric properties of the
material allow artificial skin to sense and respond to pressure changes.
This is especially important for
applications in robotics, prosthetics and touch-sensitive devices.
By utilizing smart polymers, artificial
skin can accurately sense temperature variations.
This property is crucial for applications
where temperature monitoring is essential, such as in healthcare or robotics.
The responsiveness of smart polymers to
humidity changes enables artificial skin to sense moisture levels, replicating
one of the functions of natural skin.
Inspiration from Nature:
The design of artificial skin often draws
inspiration from biological systems, such as the behaviour of pine cones or
leaves that change shape based on environmental conditions.
Ensuring that the materials used are
biocompatible is critical, especially for applications in medicine.
This enables the artificial skin to
seamlessly integrate with the human body, reducing the risk of rejection or
Vapor Deposition (CVD):
This precise technique is employed to
create thin films and nanoscale structures in the materials used for artificial
It ensures accuracy and control over the
properties of the final product.