Ravinder Dahiya, PhD, a senior lecturer in electronic and nanoscale engineering in the University of Glasgow, Scotland, School of Engineering, has been awarded a grant of £1.07 million (US $1.8 million as of May 9) to support the creation of a more flexible tactile skin for prosthetics and robotics. The four-year grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is part of a £13 million (US $21.89 million as of May 9) grant awarded to ten United Kingdom universities that are conducting research in advanced materials, robotic and autonomous systems, and synthetic biology.
Scientists have been unable to create a tactile synthetic skin because “either the sensor has been too big or the electronics not sufficiently flexible,” according to a University of Glasgow press release. “[H]owever, Dr. Dahiya believes he is on the cusp of a breakthrough and has found a way of incorporating electronics and sensors on bendable silicon-based surfaces that will be 50 micrometers thick….”
Dahiya will work with Duncan Gregory, PhD, chair in inorganic materials in the University of Glasgow’s School of Chemistry. Touch Bionics, based in Livingston, Scotland, will work with Dahiya and Gregory to confirm the effectiveness of the synthetic skin. Aside from being used to create touch-sensitive prosthetic devices, Dahiya said the printing technique used for the tactile skin could also allow robots to determine the correct amount of pressure necessary to perform delicate, touch-sensitive tasks.