Innovation That Matters

Solar-powered synthetic skin could return touch to amputees

Work & Lifestyle

University of Glasgow researchers have developed a solar-powered synthetic skin using wonder material graphene that could improve robotics and prosthetics.

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One atom thick graphene has such amazing capabilities that it is being applied to everything from fashion technology to sustainability improvements. A little black dress made of the material incorporates sensors and lights that change in relationship to the wearer’s breathing, and graphene coated solar panels allow energy to be generated even on overcast and rainy days. Using its optical transparency feature to generate power from incidental light, researchers from the University of Glasgow have created a synthetic skin that could be used in both robotics and prosthetics.

Members of the University’s Bendable Electronics and Sensing Technologies (BEST) group integrated power-generating photovoltaic cells into a new version of synthetic skin. Allowing prostheses to make highly improved pressure measurements would give amputees a much wider range of motion, including grasping and moving items that are currently too small to do with finesse, such as moving a computer mouse. The earliest applications may be in robotics, providing for improved safety in situations like factory work. The team is already examining methods for storing excess light and power.

How might such a lightweight, strong, potentially sustainable material be applied in large-scale industrial situations and industries?




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