Scientists at Stanford and Seoul National University managed to build artificial tactile sensory nerves out of flexible organic electronics. The system is able to detect pressures down to 1 kilopascal and to do so in clusters that mimic the sensitivity of natural skin.
Using their device the investigators were able to read Braille as would a blind person and to measure the movement of an object coming in contact with the material.
The researchers were able to connect the device to a cockroach whose legs were actuated in response to the pressure sensors activating synaptic transistors.
While a wired cockroach that runs when the artificial nerves sense something sounds like fun amusement, the technology may one day allow amputees to feel through their prostheses and do wonders for other clinical applications.
“We take skin for granted but it’s a complex sensing, signaling and decision-making system,” said Zhenan Bao, one of the authors of the paper appearing in Science. “This artificial sensory nerve system is a step toward making skin-like sensory neural networks for all sorts of applications.”
Study in journal Science: A bioinspired flexible organic artificial afferent nerve…
Illustration: Kevin Craft