Skin is the first protective barrier and one of the most important sensory organs of the body but don’t actually realise it until we have normal functional skin that senses and sends messages to the nervous system.
The real problem is with the people who have had intense burns on their skin. The skin loses sensory nerves and hence lacks the mechanism to evoke motor nerves to take action when some danger is sensed. The skin becomes too dysfunctional to process or pass any impulses to the nervous system and due to this, such people harm themselves badly. For such victims, researchers from University of Connecticut in the US have made efforts to develop a special sensor for artificial skin that helps them ‘feel’ pressure, heat, cold, and vibration around them. Not only this, this artificial sensor also gives us certain ‘superpowers’ to detect sound waves and magnetic fields around us.
As the scientists told, they wanted to create a sensor that can precisely mimic the sensing properties of skin and do other things besides that. “It would be very cool if it had abilities human skin does not; for example, the ability to detect magnetic fields, sound waves, and abnormal behaviours,” says Islam Mosa from University of Connecticut. They have made such sensors by using silicone tubes wrapped up in a copper wire and filled with a special fluid made of tiny iron oxide nano particles. This set up works on the principles of electricity, where iron oxide particles create electric current due to constant rubbing/friction against silicon walls and this current is taken up by the copper wire located at the core of the tube.
This current taken up by the copper wire works as a signal. And hence, whenever this artificial sensor tube strikes against anything, the Fe oxide particles creates signals due to electric current and that helps one in developing a sensory mechanism. Interestingly, this nanosensor also develops signals when sound waves and magnetic field waves vary around it. However, that happens in a totally different manner than the pressure sensing. Researchers are now headed to test the sensor, fix the drawbacks and develop a better sensor in a flat shape in order to make it look and function more like normal skin.