Thursday, December 16, 2010

Top 100 Stories of 2010 #85: Robot Skin Can Feel Your Touch

Artificial organs keep us alive, artificial arms build our cars—and soon artificial skin may allow robots or prosthetics to respond to our every touch. This past year, two independent groups made notable advances in that direction. Berkeley Lab's Ali Javey attached a grid of nanowire transistors to a polyimide film placed atop a layer of rubber. The resulting electronic skin recognizes pokes and prods as changes in electric resistance. Meanwhile, at Stanford University, materials scientist Zhenan Bao and collaborators cut pyramid-shaped holes in an elastic polymer to produce variations in capacitance, the ability to hold an electric charge. In tests, the material could “feel” objects as light as a butterfly. More>