The artificial finger

July 20, 2012

Artificial finger (credit: NanoBioTact, NanoBioTouch)

European researchers have developed the first sensitive artificial finger.

The NanoBioTact and NanoBioTouch projects seek to radically improve understanding of the human mechano-transduction system and tissue engineered nanobiosensors.

“There are many potential applications of biometric tactile sensoring, for example in prosthetic limbs where you´ve got neuro-coupling which allows the limb to sense objects and also to feed back to the brain, to control the limb.

Another area would be in robotics where you might want the capability to have sense the grip of objects, or intelligent haptic exploration of surfaces, for example,” says Prof. Michael Adams, the coordinator of NanoBioTact.

The scientists have already developed a prototype of the first sensitive artificial finger. It works with an array of pressure sensors that mimic the spatial resolution, sensitivity and dynamics of human neural tactile sensors and can be directly connected to the central nervous system.

Combined with an artificial skin that mimics a human fingerprint, the device´s sensitivity to vibrations is improved. Depending on the quality of a textured surface, the biomimetic finger vibrates in different ways, when it slides across the surface.

That produces different signals and once it will get used by patients, they could recognize if the surface is smooth or scratchy. “The sensors are working very much like the sensors are doing on your own finger”, says physicist Dr. Michael Ward from the School of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Birmingham.