Scientists are working on a prototype 'flexible electronic sensor', sensitive enough to feel the steps of a lady-bird and it can lead to better artificial limbs and heart monitor.
The robotic skin, which is being developed by engineers at Seoul National University, uses interlocks hairs which can sense objects through static attraction.
AdvertisementThe breakthrough - which was based on research into natural hairs on a beetle's back - could mean artificial limbs could be made to be more sensitive.
The artificial hairs are created from polymer fibres - tiny sheets of material is just 100 nanometres in diameter and a micrometre (one millionth of a metre) in length.
While invisible to the human hair, their tiny size and shape, and their metallic covering which makes them conductive to electricity, all combine to allow highly-sensitive readings.
Some of the potential uses of the skin include being uses as a heart monitor, which can be strapped to the wrist to detect your pulse.
Indeed the artificial skin can pick up brief touches which would not be detectable to humans - touches with a force of just five pascals can be "felt" by the hairs.
The hairs can detect 'pressure', 'shear' and the twisting motion.
These final two movements are traditionally hard for mechanical objects to detect, but thanks to the electrical, microscopic hairs, the different signals can now be decoded.
The team has tested the pads by bouncing water droplets on the surface and testing out pule detection.