The human body has been designed such that it cannot be reproduced from nothing. No computer can compete with the human brain, no camera can capture the degree of precision of the eye, no robot can replace the human body and mind. But, humans can try, and keep on trying; specially if the purpose is to aid individuals who have acquired defects. Motivated by such lofty purpose, scientists have manufactured an artificial skin that coats prosthetic arms to allow for users to feel heat and humidity.
Scientists of a new study have taken prosthetics to a whole new level. They have manufactured a skin comparable to real human skin that is embedded with tiny sensors able to take in environmental changes in heat, pressure and moisture.
While the newly created skin can detect the environmental cues, it cannot as yet make the person wearing it feel them. The researchers are, however, looking forward to adding this option. They intend to work on making the sensory information translated into real feeling for the amputees.
Much headway has been made in the science of prosthetics, but, one thing has not been resolved until now: the users cannot feel if something is terribly hot or not. The user also cannot determine whether he is about to lose hold of something the grip of which is too soft. Smart prosthetics that do cater for this to a certain extent are also quite rigid and easily breakable. All of these drawbacks with the existing prosthetics led the scientists to design a smart skin that would be flexible and hence stretchable, together with allowing users to feel.
The smart skin consists of a material known as polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) which is elastic and transparent silicone. It was made to be packed with 400 sensors per square millimeter. The sensors are made of silicone nanoribbons.
The sensors are what make the prosthetic skin special: they send an electrical signal as response to hot and cold contact. Another additional feature is a device known as capacitor that allows for the detection of humidity.