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Optical Pressure Sensors Give Robots the Human Touch

December 7, 2009

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Researchers at Belgium's Ghent University have developed artificial skin that uses the detection of light as its feedback mechanism. Jeroen Missinne and colleagues use two layers of parallel polymer strips lying perpendicular to each other to form a grid, and they are separated by a thin sheet of plastic. The polymer strips act like optical fibers due to their shape, which facilitates internal reflection and reduces light loss, as they receive light. Pressure on the flexible skin pushes the strips closer together and allows light to move to neighboring strips. The skin is highly sensitive, and the strips can be as close as 125 micrometers.

Missinne demonstrated the artificial skin embedded with optical sensors at the recent IMEC Flexible and Stretchable Electronics workshop in Ghent. The team will continue to conduct tests through the end of the year to prove that the skin is capable of distinguishing between different objects and different patterns of forces.

"We're desperate for new materials to let robots be able to feel the world," says Chris Melhuish of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory in the United Kingdom.

From New Scientist
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