Scientists take a big step up the ladder towards the deveplopment of prosthectic limbs and robots with a sense of touch. They have found a way to power an experimental kind of electronic skin using solar energy.
Amputees with prosthetic limbs may soon experience a better sense of touch, temperature and texture. Researchers from University of Glasgow opens up the possibility for "solar-powered skin", which would include better sense capabilities than current technology. While prosthetics are usually powered using batteries, the solar energy can provide up to 15 times more energy than is usually needed to power a prosthetic limb.
"If an entity is going out in a sunny day, then they won’t need any battery" to activate their senses, said Ravinder Dahiya, a research fellow at the university and a leader of the study. "They can feel, without worrying about battery."
Powering such systems might be difficult, but now researchers at the University of Glasgow's School of Engineering have found a way to use graphene, an allotrope of carbon, to generate electricity via solar power.
Graphene, which is just one atom thick, is strong, highly flexible, electrically conductive and transparent, making it ideal for gathering the sun's energy to generate power, the scientists said on Thursday.
According to Dahiya, "The technology could also increase the functionality of robots, allowing them to have a better understanding of what they touch and interact with and be less likely to make errors or injure humans."
The next goal is to use the same technology to power the motors need to drive a prosthetic hand. "This could allow the creation of an entirely energy-autonomous prosthetic limb", Dahiya said.