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Artificial skin could give robots a sense of touch

Using vertical zinc oxide nanowires, researchers have fabricated arrays of piezotronic transistors capable of converting mechanical motion directly into electronic controlling signals.

world Updated: Apr 30, 2013 00:36 IST

Using vertical zinc oxide nanowires, researchers have fabricated arrays of piezotronic transistors capable of converting mechanical motion directly into electronic controlling signals.

The arrays could give robots a more adaptive sense of touch, provide better security in handwritten signatures and offer new ways for humans to interact with electronic devices.

The arrays include more than 8,000 functioning piezotronic transistors, each of which can independently produce an electronic controlling signal when placed under mechanical strain.

These touch-sensitive transistors dubbed ‘taxels’ could provide significant improvements in resolution, sensitivity and active/adaptive operations compared to existing techniques for tactile sensing. Their sensitivity is comparable to that of a human fingertip.

The taxels operate with two-terminal transistors. Instead of a third gate terminal used by conventional transistors to control the flow of current passing through them, taxels control the current with ‘strain-gating.