Researchers have developed a new type of solar-powered electronic skin that is more sensitive to touch than a human hand.
Prosthetics are usually fully powered using batteries, a new prototype from University of Glasgow researchers opens up the possibility for so-called “solar-powered skin,” which would include better sense capabilities than current technology.
The research team has come up with a version that harnesses the sun’s rays. The electronic skin would operate longer than similar materials powered by batteries or tethered to a power source.
The team of engineers attached a layer of power-generating photovoltaic cells to the back of a sensor-laden prosthetic hand. The sensors are made from graphene, flexible material that’s stronger than steel, electrically conductive and transparent.
Graphene, which is just one atom thick, is strong, highly flexible, electrically conductive and transparent, making it ideal for gathering the sun’s energy to generate power.
Professor Ravinder Dahiya, an electrical engineer at the University of Glasgow, says his first-of-its-kind sensor is a step towards more lightweight prosthetic limbs for people, as well as more natural-feeling robots covered in soft-skinned bodies.
His new bot skin, which is made of a single atomic layer of graphene, is a touch sensor. It needs 20 nanowatts of power per square centimeter to operate.
The next goal is to use the same technology to power the motors need to drive a prosthetic hand. “This could allow the creation of an entirely energy-autonomous prosthetic limb,” Dahiya said.
The study was published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.