Berkeley – Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a pressure-sensitive electronic material from semiconductor nanowires that could one day give new meaning to the term "thin-skinned."
"The idea is to have a material that functions like the human skin, which means incorporating the ability to feel and touch objects," said Ali Javey, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences and head of the UC Berkeley research team developing the artificial skin.
The artificial skin, dubbed "e-skin" by the UC Berkeley researchers, is described in a Sept. 12 paper in the advanced online publication of the journal Nature Materials. It is the first such material made out of inorganic single crystalline semiconductors.
A touch-sensitive artificial skin would help overcome a key challenge in robotics: adapting the amount of force needed to hold and manipulate a wide range of objects.
Nanowire transistors were then integrated with a pressure sensitive rubber on top to provide the sensing functionality. The matrix required less than 5 volts of power to operate and maintained its robustness after being subjected to more than 2,000 bending cycles.
The researchers demonstrated the ability of the e-skin to detect pressure from 0 to 15 kilopascals, a range comparable to the force used for such daily activities as typing on a keyboard or holding an object. In a nod to their home institution, the researchers successfully mapped out the letter C in Cal.
"This is the first truly macroscale integration of ordered nanowire materials for a functional system – in this case, an electronic skin," said study lead author Kuniharu Takei, post-doctoral fellow in electrical engineering and computer sciences. "It's a technique that can be potentially scaled up. The limit now to the size of the e-skin we developed is the size of the processing tools we are using." ###
Other UC Berkeley co-authors of the paper are Ron Fearing, professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences; Toshitake Takahashi, graduate student in electrical engineering and computer sciences; Johnny C. Ho, graduate student in materials science and engineering; Hyunhyub Ko and Paul Leu, post-doctoral researchers in electrical engineering and computer sciences; and Andrew G. Gillies, graduate student in mechanical engineering.
The National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency helped support this research.
Contact: Sarah Yang firstname.lastname@example.org 510-643-7741 University of California - Berkeley