E-skin may already respond to touch, but it does not respond well to other painful stimuli such as injections and burns. This presents a problem in the manufacture of prostheses or robots, which must respond in the same way as a human. However, such skin may become more sensitive in the future.
Researchers at RMIT University have developed artificial skin that reacts to pain in the same way as human skin. It can provide “almost instant” feedback if the pressure and temperature are high enough to make the person scream in pain.
A wearable prototype of such artificial leather is made of a stretchable, extremely thin conductive material (a mixture of oxides and biocompatible silicone) with a pressure-sensitive, thermosetting coating and cerebral memory cells. According to researcher Dr. Ataura Rahman, the material is sensitive enough to tell the difference between a soft pin prick and a painful prick. The structure of the material mimics the neurons, neural pathways, and receptors that govern human perception.
So far, this project is still far from the stage of implementation of the final product. However, the potential uses of such e-skin are clear. A prosthetic hand can better reproduce the sensation of a real object and keep people safe from danger. Other potential applications include robotics and non-invasive skin grafts.