[Cool Dept.] Robot skin can stretch and soak up solar power

Robots are pretty cool and are destine to become a part of our everyday lives but the one thing that they have always had is either a metallic or some sort of synthetic rubber skin that covers a metal framework of some sort.

It’s the kind of thing that makes them stand out in a crowd to say the least so the idea that they could actually have a super intelligent skin that in theory could power itself is pretty cool, to say the least.

Well we are one step closer to that ideal thanks to the work of Stanford researcher Zhenan Bao and according to the story at Fast Company she is entering some pretty exciting territory

The latest advance has seen Bao adding a corrugated microstructure organic solar cell layer into the skin. The clever folding in this layer allows it to be stretched along two axes…by up to 30% beyond its original length. This lets her coat pretty much any human-like joint with the skin and still have it collect enough solar power to run its sensor array, even when the skin is stretched and distorted over complex joints like elbows. Cleverly, the flexible solar array is connected into a circuit via a liquid metal electrode, which conforms to the particular shape of the solar cell at any particular moment.

The new super-skin will give future android robots–which are coming to our homes and workplaces sooner than you may think–the ability to gather power from the sun at all times, have human-like touch sensitivity (which is vital if they’re to be integrated into our lifestyles), and to have super-human chemical senses that make them very useful workplace assistants.

This isn’t stuff that is way out there in the future either but rather with the way science is moving this is something that could happen within even my lifetime.

Very cool stuff or something we should be leaving well enough alone?