Artificial Skin for Robotic Hand Made from the First Stretchable Semiconductor


Photo by:FDA via Wikimedia commons



A group of researchers from the University of Houston made a breakthrough in stretchable electronics that can serve as artificial skin for a robotic hand. Now, it can sense temperature.

Lead author for the paper Cunjiang Yu, Bill D. Cook assistant professor of mechanical engineering, stated that the work was initially for creating a semiconductor in a rubber composite format. It was designed to retain the functionality of electronic components even if the material has been stretched by 50 percent. A silicon-based polymer called polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) and tiny nanowires were used to prepare and create the solution that hardened into a material that used the nanowires to transport the electric current. The final work led to the first semiconductor taking the format of a rubber composite with stretchability and without any special mechanical structure.

“Our strategy has advantages for simple fabrication, scalable manufacturing, high-density integration, large strain tolerance and low cost,” Yu stated.

Yu along with the research team which includes co-authors Hae-Jin Kim, Kyoseung Sim, and Anish Thukral of the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering created the electronic skin then paired it with the robotic hand to demonstrate its ability to sense and differentiate hot and cold temperatures. The electronic skin became capable of interpreting computer signals to American Sign Language through the use of the robotic hand.

According to the research team, the artificial skin is just one of many possible applications. Research discovered that the material of the artificial skin has other properties such as having a soft texture, bending capability, and pliability. Future upgrades will enable application of the stretchable semiconductor to health monitors, medical implants, and human-machine interfaces.