In trying to mimic a human being’s five senses, electronic devices such as the camera and TV were developed. As a result, scientists are continuously attempting to imitate tactile, olfactory, and palate senses. Currently, researchers in tactile sensing are focusing on physical mimetic technologies that measure the pressure used for a robot to grab an object but psychosensory tactile research on how to mimic human tactile feelings such as soft, smooth, or rough has a long way to go.
Electronic skin technology was developed that can detect “prick” and “hot” pain sensations as a human would. This technology can be applied to the development of humanoid robots and can be used by patients wearing prosthetic hands.
The electronic skin has simplified the sensor structure and can measure pressure and temperature at the same time. It can be applied on various tactile systems regardless of the measurement principle of the sensor. The researchers focused on zinc oxide nano-wire (ZnO nanowire) technology, which was applied as a self-powered tactile sensor that does not need a battery due to its piezoelectric effect — generating electrical signals by detecting pressure. A temperature sensor using the Seebeck effect was applied at the same time for one sensor to do two jobs.
Electrodes were arranged on polyimide flexible substrate, the ZnO nanowire was grown, and the researchers measured the piezoelectric effect by pressure and the Seebeck effect by temperature change at the same time. The team also developed a signal processing technique that judges the generation of pain signals considering pressure level, stimulated area, and temperature.
The core base technology can effectively detect pain, which is necessary for developing future tactile sensors. It can be widely applied on electronic skin that feels various senses as well as new human-machine interfaces.