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New artificial skin can feel real pain!1 min read

December 7, 2020 2 min read

New artificial skin can feel real pain!1 min read

Reading Time: 2 minutes

All Things Science

We all react to hot and cold objects. The moment our skin touches something too hot, we jump back or pull back sharply, hoping to avoid a burn. This particular quality of the skin, our body’s biggest organ, to recognize what would cause us pain, is unique. Now, scientists have created artificial skin that behaves in a similar fashion.

Researchers in RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, created this artificial skin, made of silicone rubber, which reacts to pain stimuli. Its outer layers contain circuits that have sensors that understand if an object is cold or hot. And it reacts as quickly as real skin does!

How does this artificial skin replicate something our body does?

When we touch something hot, there are pain receptors in our skin that send signals to our brain. The brain sends a response, such as us pulling our hand back. The same way, the artificial skin understands when an object can cause pain and sends a signal to whatever parts of the skin represents its brain, or its thinking side. Then, a movement is triggered. The skin detects them based on what we call ‘threshold’. It knows when a touch is gentle or a slap. It also knows when something is warm or unbearably hot.

Discoveries like this artificial skin could help scientists create smarter prosthetics that help wearers know when they are doing something that can cause damage.

(All Things Science is a weekly column that talks about science, space and other things around it.)

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