Researchers at Seoul National University have developed prosthetic skin that could someday allow patients to regain their sense of touch. The skin is made of clear graphene with temperature, pressure, humidity, strain, and nerve stimulation sensors. The study was published in the Nature Communications journal.
During the experiments, researchers laminated the skin on a prosthetic hand. According to Live Science, the results showed that the prosthetic skin can survive complicated hand operations such as holding cold or hot drinks, shaking hands, grasping balls, typing on a keyboard, and touching other people. The scientists also added heating devices on the prosthetic skin that can change its temperature to mimic the regular body temperature of a person.
There have been substantial developments regarding bionic arms and legs the past years. Scientists have also been looking for ways on how to connect the limbs to nervous systems that will help patients have their sense of touch back.
Dae-Hyeong Kim, co-author of the study, said that the prosthetic skin can stretch more on some parts of the body than on others.
“Some parts of the hand stretch only several percent, while other parts more than 20 percent.”
Researchers took a look at the properties of the skin and matched the properties of the sensors depending on which body part it should cover. They made the prosthetic skin more sensitive for the hand where the skin does not stretch as much as other areas.
NY Daily News reports that the researchers say that the sensors are meant to help patients’ daily interactions, such as the pressure of shaking hands too hard or telling if someone has a fever.
“As a result, sensing and actuation capabilities are enabled over a wide range of sensory inputs, in the presence of skin deformations, thus providing enhanced function and high performance in the emerging field of smart prosthetics.”
The scientists are also looking into the possibility of using the prosthetic skin with electrodes in order to relay the data from sensors to the brain. However, there are still some safety issues that need to be resolved when using the electrodes.
[Image via Live Science]