Scientists have developed electronic artificial skin that reacts to pain just like real skin.
The prototype device developed by a team at RMIT University can electronically replicate the way human skin senses pain, opening the way to better prosthetics, smarter robotics and non-invasive alternatives to skin grafts.
The device mimics the body’s near-instant feedback response and can react to painful sensations with the same lighting speed that nerve signals travel to the brain.
Lead researcher Professor Madhu Bhaskaran said the pain-sensing prototype was a significant advance towards next-generation biomedical technologies and intelligent robotics.
“Skin is our body’s largest sensory organ, with complex features designed to send rapid-fire warning signals when anything hurts,” Bhaskaran said.
“We’re sensing things all the time through the skin but our pain response only kicks in at a certain point, like when we touch something too hot or too sharp.
“No electronic technologies have been able to realistically mimic that very human feeling of pain – until now.
“Our artificial skin reacts instantly when pressure, heat or cold reach a painful threshold.
“It’s a critical step forward in the future development of the sophisticated feedback systems that we need to deliver truly smart prosthetics and intelligent robotics.”
A concept image of electronic skin that can sense touch, pain, and heat. Credit: Ella Maru Studio
Images credit RMIT