Researchers have developed a sensor for artificial skin that may not only support burn victims feel but also lend humans ‘superpowers’ to identify sound waves and magnetic fields.
Our skin’s ability to notice pressure, heat, cold, and vibration is a serious safety function that maximum people take for approved.
However, burn victims, those with prosthetic members, and others who have lost skin sensitivity for one reason or another, cannot take it for granted, and often injure themselves in voluntarily.
Scientists from the University of Connecticut in the US wanted to create a sensor that can parodist the sensing properties of the skin. Such a sensor would need to be capable to sense pressure, temperature, and vibration.
“It would be very cool if it had abilities human skin does not; for example, the ability to identify magnetic fields, sound waves, and abnormal behaviors,” Islam Mosa from the University of Connecticut.
Scientists produced such a sensor with a silicone tube wrapped in copper wire and filled with a superior fluid made of tiny particles of iron oxide just one billionth of a meter long, called nanoparticles.
The nanoparticles rub around the inside of the silicone tube and produce an electric current. The copper wire immediate the silicone tube picks up the current as a signal.
Once this tube is nudged by somewhat experiencing pressure, the nanoparticles move and the electric signal changes. Sound waves also create waves in the nanoparticle fluid and the electric signal changes in a different way than when the tube is nudged.
The scientists found that magnetic fields alter the signal too, in a way separate from pressure or sound waves.
Even a person moving everywhere while carrying the sensor changes the electrical current, and the team found they could distinguish between the electrical signals caused by walking, running, jumping, and swimming.
Because the rubber outer is completely sealed and waterproof, it could also serve as a wearable monitor to alert parents if their child fell into deep water in a pool, for example.
Metal skin could possibly act as an early warning for workers exposed to hazardously high magnetic fields.
“The inspiration was to make something durable that would last for a very long time, and could identify multiple hazards,” Mosa said.
The scientist’s team has yet to test the sensor for its reaction to heat and cold, but they suspect it will work for those as well. The next stage is to create the sensor in a flat configuration, more like skin, and see if it still works.