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Toward Printable, Sensor-Laden 'skin' For Robots

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The device is roughly the size of a coin.

Researchers have designed and built a device that responds to mechanical stresses by changing the color of a spot on its surface.

Credit: Subramanian Sundaram

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory believe three-dimensional (3D) printing of flexible electronics integrating sensors and processing circuitry is key to bulk manufacturing of a robot "skin."

They have designed and constructed a device that responds to mechanical stresses by changing the coloration of a spot on its surface.

Inspired by the golden tortoise beetle, the T-shaped device combines a wide, squat base and an elongated crossbar made of elastic plastic with a silver strip running lengthwise. Two printed transistors and a semiconducting polymer pixel change color when the crossbars stretch.

A layer of potassium salt-impregnated water separates the gate and the semiconductor in the transistors, which lowers operational voltage so a 1.5-volt battery can power the device.

The 3D printer has print heads that emit hot and cool materials, with the substrate produced by ultraviolet curing the fluid depositions.

From MIT News
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