Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Sensational Skin
19 November 2012

Sensational Skin

Skin is the underappreciated hero of our body. It is at once our sensitive, self-healing cocoon, and our unyielding first line of defence against the world. Scientists are trying to emulate its feats for use in prosthetics and robotics. The model pictured is sporting pads of the latest synthetic skin. Tiny nickel particles embedded in flexible plastic allow it to conduct electricity. Pressure applied to the model’s hand, lights up the bulb on its chest. It can distinguish between a light tap and a firm handshake, and can use the changing distances between nickel particles to tell how bent or twisted a joint is. When cut in two the skin can even heal itself: within half an hour, it can put itself back together and be in full working order – essential if it’s going to withstand day-to-day life.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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