Scientists are eagerly trying to develop touch-sensitive prosthetic skin that can help amputees feel pressure or contact. The issue lies in providing an energy source for such skin so that it can send signals.
One team, led by Ravinder Dahiya a professor of electronic and nanoscale engineering at the University of Glasgow, have developed synthetic skin that can be powered by sunlight. This is the first touch-sensitive synthetic skin with solar-powered cells integrated into the skin itself. The team created the transparent skin out of four layers: solar cells on the bottom, followed by polyvinyl chloride (PVC), graphene and silicone. The skin is also ultrathin and flexible.
The researchers tested the synthetic skin on a bionic hand (i-limb). When light was shined onto the skin, it instantaneously powered senses on it allowing the prosthetic hand to perform challenging tasks such as gripping soft materials. The skin was also able to detect pressures as low as 0.01 lbs. per square inch, only needing 20 nanowatts of power per 0.1 square inches. The group's next goal is to develop a similar technology that can power the prosthetic hand itself, including its motors. "This could allow the creation of an entirely energy-autonomous prosthetic limb," said Dahiya