‘Super skin’ for robot limbs can feel – and survive the pressure of two elephants standing on it

Posted: October 26, 2011 in Science and Technology

Rob Waugh
Daily Mail
October 26, 2011

The ‘skin-like’ sensor unveiled by Stanford University scientists can ‘feel’ pressure just like human skin – but is far, far tougher.

It could be used for advanced prosthetic limbs – or to create robots that can ‘feel’ a touch.

The ‘super skin’ can be stretched out to twice its length and snap back without any harm.

Inside are tiny ‘springs’ made of carbon nanotubes – minuscule hair-like filaments – that can ‘sense’ pressure from a slight pinch up to the equivalent of two elephants stepping on top of the sensor.

The highly conductive nanotubes can be stretched in any direction, but still send electrical information – which could be fed back to a robot brain or to a patient.

Even huge amounts of pressure don’t permanently damage the sensor, created by Stanford associate professor Dr Zhenan Bao’s team.

The sensitive ‘film’ of carbon nanotubes is completely transparent. It’s created by spraying carbon nanotubes – tiny tubes of carbon atoms where the walls are a single layer of carbon – onto silicone.

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