Skin Sensor Signals Brain
Zhenan Bao, professor of chemical engineering at Stanford University, has been trying to working on a material that mimics skin’s ability to act as a sensor net that sends touch, temperature, and pain signals to the brain.
(From The device on the “golden fingertip” is the skin-like sensor)
“This is the first time a flexible, skin-like material has been able to detect pressure and also transmit a signal to a component of the nervous system,” Bao says.
The heart of the technique is a two-ply plastic construct: the top layer creates a sensing mechanism and the bottom layer acts as the circuit to transport electrical signals and translate them into biochemical stimuli compatible with nerve cells. The top layer in the new work features a sensor that can detect pressure over the same range as human skin, from a light finger tap to a firm handshake.
The earliest reference to the idea of pressure-sensitive artificial skin in science fiction, as far as I know, is the Chemelectric Afferent Nerve-Analogues from This Immortal, a terrific 1966 novel by Roger Zelazny:
A worthy opponent was the golem. Hasan had it programmed at twice the statistically-averaged strength of a man and had its reflex-time upped by fifty percent. Its memory contained hundreds of wrestling holds and its governor theoretically prevented it from killing or maiming its opponent - all through a series of chemelectric afferent nerve-analogues, which permitted it to gauge to an ounce the amount of pressure necessary to snap a bone or tear a tendon. Rolem was about five feet, six inches in height and weighed around two hundred fifty pounds...
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