Stanford University researchers have created a ground-breaking electronic skin that gives amputees who use prosthetic limbs a genuine sense of touch, marking a huge advancement in the area of prosthetics. A state-of-the-art skin that simulates nerve impulses that communicate with the brain is equipped with specialized sensors for temperature, pressure, and strain.
Electronic Skin For Prosthetics
Senior author of the study and professor at Stanford University Zhenan Bao told that the next technology might also be used to sense things and feelings while manipulating a robotic limb remotely.
“We’ve been working on a monolithic e-skin for some time,” Professor Bao said. “The hurdle was not so much finding mechanisms to mimic the remarkable sensory abilities of human touch, but bringing them together using only skin-like materials.”
“Much of that challenge came down to advancing the skin-like electronic materials so that they can be incorporated into integrated circuits with sufficient complexity to generate nerve-like pulse trains and low enough operating voltage to be used safely on the human body.” Weichen Wang, a doctoral candidate in Bao’s lab, added.
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The team linked the animal’s nervous system to the e-skin, according to New Scientist. The rat’s brain region that controls touch and temperature was then implanted with electrodes. Then the rat’s brain sent messages to the part of the body that governs movement when they applied pressure to the device. The rat’s leg moved when the researchers used an implantable artificial synapse device to send impulses to it.
“You can validate proof of concept into animal models, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be implemented very quickly in humans,” said Stéphanie Lacour, a neuro engineer working on stretchable biomaterials at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.
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