Robotic Sensors Could Improve Touch Sensitivity of Prosthetics

Robotic sensors can improve touch sensitivity in prosthetics
A new research project focuses on developing advanced sensors for robotic systems using tactile feedback and high-precision pressure sensors to improve dexterity and motor skills and create prosthetic limbs that more closely resemble their biological counterparts.

The project is led by the University of the West of Scotland (UWS), Integrated Graphene and supported by the Scottish Research Partnership in Engineering (SRPe) and the National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland (NMIS) Industry Doctorate Program in Advanced Manufacturing.

Pressure sensors bring an important possibility to wearable robotics, providing electronically enhanced tactile sensitivity and by proxy more human motor skills.

Currently, a lack of sensory capabilities has proven to be an obstacle in robotic prosthetics, often preventing systems from completing a task.

“For robots to reach their full potential,” said Professor Des Gibson, the project’s principal investigator, “they need precise pressure sensors that can provide greater tactile capabilities.”

The team hopes to address this need through a new collaborative project that adapts a 3D graphene foam called Gii for sensor design. This material changes its electrical resistance depending on the pressure applied to it – allowing it to distinguish between light and heavy loads and the “sensitivity and feedback” of human touch.

Beyond prosthetics, the team says their new design has potential use cases in everything from surgery to precision manufacturing.

“We know that Gii’s unique properties make it suitable for use in other applications such as disease diagnostics and energy storage,” said Marco Caffio, co-founder and chief scientific officer of Integrated Graphene. , “so we’re always happy to demonstrate her flexibility on projects like this.”

Before the general launch, the team intends to further improve the sensitivity of their system. The next phase of the project is funded on an ongoing basis by UWS, Integrated Graphene Ltd, SRPe and NMIS.