Engineers and scientists at Caltech researching in creating synthetic wood stumbled across a material that was electrically responsive to changes in temperature in the lab. The scientists then created a thin layer of artificial skin using pectin and water, that could be used to measure slight changes in temperature. The mechanism in the skin is similar to the heat sensitive pit organ in vipers.
The skin can potentially be used on prosthetics to re-introduce temperature sensitivity to amputees. Biomedical applications include smart bandages that alert physicians of changes in temperature, which is a sign of infection in wounds. Chiara Daraio, leader of the team that created the material said "Pectin is widely used in the food industry as a jellifying agent; it's what you use to make jam. So it's easy to obtain and also very cheap."
The newly created skin is an order is a significant improvement over current electronic skins that are sensitive to heat. Current skins can measure temperature changes that are less than a tenth of a degree Celsius across a five degree temperature range. The new skin is sensitive to temperature changes that are less than a hundredth of a degree Celsius, across a forty five degree temperature range.
Currently the skins are sensitive from a range of 5 to 45 degrees Celsius, which is ideal for robotics and biomedical applications. The team is working on a skin that can measure temperature changes up to 90 degrees Celsius, which would allow the skin to have industrial uses, including as thermal sensors in consumer electronics. A research paper about the new material will be published on Science Robotics on 1 February.
Updated Date: Jan 31, 2017 17:35 PM