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Researchers give sense of touch to robots

Posted: 14 Aug 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:e-skin? robot artificial skin? carbon nanotube?

Robots need to feel too.

The folks at the University of Tokyo claim to have developed a material that conducts electricity like metal and is flexible like rubber, paving way for robots to have "e-skin" that, like the human skin, is sensitive to heat and pressure.

According to an AFP report citing head of the research team Takao Someya, the technology is flexible like ordinary rubber and boasts conductivity up to 570x as high as commercially available rubbers filled with carbon particles. The material is claimed to make elastic wiring ICs that can be stretched up to 1.7x its original size and mounted on curved surfaces without rendering mechanical damage or major change in conductivity.

The technology itself can be stretched up to 2.3x the original size but conductivity drops roughly by half at the maximum extension. The material is stretchable by 38 percent without affecting conductivity, the team said in the report.

To make the material, the researchers grinded carbon nanotubes with an ionic liquid and added it to rubber. They explained in the report that when added with the ionic liquid, carbon nanotubes can be uniformly dispersed in rubber. The result: a highly conductive and flexible material.

Applications for the new material include surface of steering wheels, top layer of mattress for bed-ridden people, or a stretchable display.

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