San Francisco, London- Robots can finally feel hot and cold through their sense of touch after researchers from the University of Houston have reported a breakthrough in stretchable electronics that can serve as an artificial skin.
Cunjiang Yu, Bill D. Cook, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and lead author for the paper, said the work is the first to create a semiconductor in a rubber composite format, designed to allow the electronic components to retain functionality even after the material is stretched by 50%.
According to the Science Daily website, Yu said that this invention is the first semiconductor in rubber composite format that enables stretchability without any special mechanical structure.
He added that the new discovery has advantages for simple fabrication, scalable manufacturing, high-density integration, large strain tolerance and low cost.
Yu and his team created the electronic skin and used it to demonstrate that a robotic hand could sense the temperature of hot and iced water in a cup.
The skin also was able to interpret computer signals sent to the hand and reproduce the signals as American Sign Language.
The artificial skin is just one application.
Researchers said the discovery of a material that is soft, bendable, stretchable and twistable will impact future development in soft wearable electronics, including health monitors, medical implants and human-machine interfaces.