Robot texture sensor developed according to reports in ScienceNOW, news@nature and BBC News 8 June 2006.
Chemical engineers at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, have developed a thin film that could give robots a sense of touch that enables them to distinguish between different textures with the same sensitivity as human finger tips.
The film consists of multiple layers of microscopic gold and cadmium particles separated by layers of a polymer. When a voltage is applied from one side of the film electrons pass from one layer of gold to another via the cadmium particles. If the layers of particles are compressed together the electron flow increases and the cadmium particles emit light. Therefore, when the film is pressed onto a textured surface the bumps and ridges on the surface cause a pattern of light to show up on the film, which can be analysed using a digital camera.
The sensor can distinguish features as small as 40 micrometres across and 5 micrometres tall. This is similar to the sensitivity of a human finger. Scientists are hoping to further develop the sensor so that the current changes can be interpreted without having to use a camera.
Editorial Comment: It has taken intelligent scientists applying their knowledge of the properties of gold, cadmium and polymers to create this device, and with the application of more creative design they should be able to make it work without having to use a camera. When they have done this they will have something that functions in a similar way to human touch senses.
It seems painful to have to keep saying it but this means they will have irrefutable evidence that human touch senses are the result of creative design, not chance random processes.
Evidence News 30 August 2006
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