Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Scientists Have Created Heat-Sensing “Skin” for Robots.
Scientists Have Created Heat-Sensing “Skin” for Robots.Drawing inspiration from nature, scientists have created a heat-sensing film that would allow robots to detect temperature changes in their environment. Developed by the team from ETH Zurich in Switzerland, the material mimics how the natural membrane of a snake works to help the animal identify nearby prey. Surprisingly, the researchers were able to achieve this using pectin — a low-cost substance that’s primarily used to thicken jam. To make the film, a pectin solution was mixed with calcium chloride and then dehydrated to create a transparent, flexible material. Unlike traditional electronics, which detect temperature changes via currents of electrons, this film senses temperature variations through ion currents, which is the process used by snakes. Any change in the nearby temperature would affect the film’s resistance, which the researchers could measure via electrodes along the film’s edges. To test the film, the team microwaved a teddy bear to 37° C (98.6° F) and measured how it affected the film from various distances. Results showed that the membrane was able to recognize the warmed bear from as far away as one meter. It could also detect temperature changes as small as 10 millikelvin — that’s twice as sensitive as human skin. Pectin films are ultra-low cost and scalable, insensitive to pressure and bending, and can be used to augment temperature sensing when integrated in synthetic skin platforms. This could be particularly useful in creating artificially intelligent (AI) robots, as covering a robot’s entire body with this film would essentially give it a layer of “skin” capable of 360-degree thermal sensing. source