Scientists from Stanford University, California have designed plastic skin with a sense of touch that could soon be used in artificial limbs. The breakthrough has been achieved after a decade of study that attempted to mimic the skin’s ability to sense touch, temperature and pain.
The plastic skin-like material is made of two layers which is able to detect pressure and transmit signal to a component of the nervous system. The top layer is designed to replicate senses whereas the bottom layer transmits electrical signals. The sensitivity of the plastic skin is at par with human skin i.e. it is able to detect both a light tap as well as a firm handshake.
The top layer of the skin has been created with plastics and rubbers combined with billions of carbon nanotubes to create plastic sensor that mimics the human skin. The second layer of the skin is a flexible electronic circuit. The team during the experiment had the challenge of making biological neurons recognise electronic signal. In order to address this challenge, scientists used a technique called optogenetics wherein they engineered a line of mouse brain cells to stimulate a portion of human nervous system.