Thin 'e-skin' could lead to more 'touchy-feely' robots

July 22, 2013 at 6:43 PM
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BERKELEY, Calif., July 22 (UPI) -- Scientists in California say a paper-thin e-skin that responds to touch by lighting up could give robots a finer sense of touch.

The technology, using semiconductor nanowire transistors layered on top of thin rubber sheets, could also be used to create things like wallpapers that double as touchscreen displays and dashboard laminates that allow drivers to adjust electronic controls with the touch of a hand, researchers at the University of California, Berkley, reported Monday.

"With the interactive e-skin, we have demonstrated an elegant system on plastic that can be wrapped around different objects to enable a new form of human-machine interfacing," Ali Javey, a professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences, said.

The researchers have manufactured samples of e-skin measuring 16-by-16 pixels, with each pixel containing a transistor, an organic LED and a pressure sensor to provide a user-interactive network that responds to touch by instantly lighting up. The more intense the pressure, the brighter the light it emits.

"Integrating sensors into a network is not new, but converting the data obtained into something interactive is the breakthrough," researcher Chuan Wang said. "And unlike the stiff touchscreens on iPhones, computer monitors and ATMs, the e-skin is flexible and can be easily laminated on any surface."

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