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New `plastic skin` can sense pressure, send signals to brain

A hospital staff helps a two-year-old boy, whom local media identified by the pseudonym Xiaofeng, stand with his prosthetic legs at a hospital in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, April 24, 2015. The boy lost his legs in a traffic accident and was installed with prosthesis earlier this month. Picture taken April 24, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA
A hospital staff helps a two-year-old boy, whom local media identified by the pseudonym Xiaofeng, stand with his prosthetic legs at a hospital in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, April 24, 2015. The boy lost his legs in a traffic accident and was installed with prosthesis earlier this month. Picture taken April 24, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA

Washington: Scientists have created new ‘plastic skin,’ which can detect how hard it is being pressed and can send pressure sensation to brain cell.

Made of two layers, the plastic skin has a top layer that creates a sensing mechanism, while the bottom layer transmits electrical signals into biochemical stimuli for nerve cells to receive, The Independents reports.

The skin can detect pressure from a light finger tap to a firm handshake, just like the human skin.

Lead author Zhenan Bao of the Stanford University said that this was the first time a flexible, skin-like material had been able to detect pressure and also transmit a signal to a component of the nervous system.

Bao’s team had earlier used plastic as a pressure sensor by measuring the natural springiness of their molecular structures. Now, they have exploited this by scattering billions of one-atom thick grapheme tubes through the plastic.

Whenever pressure is applied on the plastic skin, it squeezes the tubes closer together and enables them to conduct electricity, which allows the plastic skins to mimic human skin, which transmits pressure information as short pulses of electricity to the brain.

The ‘plastic skin’ is a step towards the aim of creating a fully flexible electronic fabric which could be fixed with sensors and cover a whole prosthetic limb to replicate some of the skin’s sensory functions. (ANI)

The study appears in Science. (ANI)