Scientists believe that a newly developed electronic skin that is able to mimic the function and properties of human skin could help to create prosthetics capable of providing sensory feedback.
Developed by University of Colorado Boulder scientists, the so-called e-skin is a thin, semi-transparent material that is able to repair itself.
As it is malleable, the material is able to easily wrap around complex, curved surfaces, and – just like human skin – it can sense pressure and differs in temperature.
E-skin could be used in prosthetics
The scientists behind the material believe that its unique properties make it suitable for a broad range of applications in robotics, prosthetics and health care.
"The e-skin is robust yet flexible and malleable and thus can find applications in robotics, prosthetics, and biomedical devices," said the team in its study, which was published in trade journal Science Advances earlier this week.
"In prosthetics, it could be used on a bionic hand to sense for pressure when holding a glass cup and prevent the user from accidentally crushing it, or prevent burning if the contents is hot."
Material could allow robots to experience human sensations
The team also envisage it being used to enable robots to read a person's temperature or detect a fever by a single touch.
To recycle the skin, the material is soaked in a solution that degrades polymers down and separates the nanoparticles into oligomers and monomers – small molecules – that are soluble in ethanol. The recycled solution and nanoparticles can then be used to make a new, functional e-skin.