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Stanford Researchers Create Stretchy Skin-Like Sensors

The team believes they could have applications in prosthetic limbs, robotics and touch-sensitive computer displays.

Emma Hutchings
Emma Hutchings on October 26, 2011.

Researchers at Stanford University have created a transparent skin-like sensor that can be stretched to more than twice its length and then bounce back to its original shape. It can also sense different kinds of pressure, as research team member Darren Lipomi explains:

This sensor can register pressure ranging from a firm pinch between your thumb and forefinger to twice the pressure exerted by an elephant standing on one foot. None of it causes any permanent deformation.

By airbrushing carbon nanotubes onto a thin layer of silicone and stretching out the substance, the nanotubes form little structures that look like springs. When the silicone is stretched, these get pulled in that direction and when it is released, they cause it to rebound back to its original dimensions.

These sensors could be used for making touch-sensitive prosthetic limbs, pressure-sensitive bandages, touch-sensitive computer screens or robots. Watch the video below to learn more about this stretchable artificial skin:

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