Scientists are working on a tactile sensor that could one day lend a human touch to robotic hands. The new sensor responds to pressure and texture with a sensitivity and spatial resolution comparable to human fingers.
The device, created by Vivek Maheshwari and Ravi Saraf at the University of Nebraska, is detailed in the June 9 issue of the journal Science.
The sensor is a film made of stacked layers of semi-conductive nanoparticles that are separated by layers of a non-conducting material. When pressure is exerted on the film, the layers are pressed together. This releases light and an electric current that can be measured; the amount of light and current emitted depends on the amount of pressure applied.
In one demonstration, the researchers pressed a penny into the sensory film. Pinpricks of light in the shape and outline of President Lincoln’s clothes appeared on the film and the letters “TY” in “LIBERTY” on the coin could be made out. The glowing outline was captured by a camera and then fed into a computer.
The new sensor can also operate in an alternative mode that doesn’t require a camera and which is just as sensitive, Saraf said. – livesci
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