Artificial Electronic Skin

TUM-IAS Hans Fischer Senior Fellow Prof. Takao Someya (University of Tokyo) works in the Focus Group on Artificial Electronic Skin, aiming at implementation of a novel paradigm that could lead to important advances in robotics. This research pursues the creation of an artificial electronic skin that imitates the properties of human skin using innovative fabrication techniques of printed electronics. The “artificial electronic skin” concept will realize a network of fully printed unit-cells integrating printed sensors and specific integrated circuitry in order to mimic the human skin’s “sense of touch”. A large number of sensor-cells will be connected to a cell-network that determines touch information across large areas and transmits if comparably to the human nervous system. One or more cells can be connected to a processing system to interpret the sensor information and support other perception channels of a humanoid. Printed electronics offers inherent advantages to the development of an artificial skin: Mechanically flexible and even stretchable materials of large size can be utilized as a substrate to recently developed inks of electronic materials. These possess interesting properties, such high conductivity, high dielectric permittivity and tunable work functions. One of the main challenges will be the integration of these sensors on large-scale area, fulfilling mechanical requirements, stretchability and flexibility of human skin, and ensuring correct sensor performance and reproducibility. A similar architecture may be applied on prostheses as well as for health and fitness monitoring.