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UC Berkeley researchers craft ultra-sensitive artificial skin, robots dream of holding eggs

Darren Murph
09.13.10
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Researchers and engineers have been toiling on synthetic skins for years now, but most of 'em have run into one major problem: the fact that organic materials are poor semiconductors. In other words, older skins have required high levels of power to operate, and those using inorganic materials have traditionally been too fragile for use on prosthetics. Thanks to a team of researchers at UC Berkeley, though, we're looking at a new "pressure-sensitive electronic material from semiconductor nanowires." The new 'e-skin' is supposedly the first material made out of inorganic single crystalline semiconductors, and at least in theory, it could be widely used in at least two applications. First off, robots could use this skin to accurately determine how much force should be applied (or not applied, as the case may be) to hold a given object. Secondly, this skin could give touch back to those with artificial hands and limbs, though that would first require "significant advances in the integration of electronic sensors with the human nervous system. Dollars to donuts this gets tested on the gridiron when UCLA and / or Stanford comes to town.

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