The intricate properties of the fingertips have been mimicked and recreated using semiconductor devices in what researchers hope will lead to the development of advanced surgical gloves.
The devices, shown to be capable of responding with high precision to the stresses and strains associated with touch and finger movement, are a step towards the creation of surgical gloves for use in medical procedures such as local ablations and ultrasound scans.
Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Northwestern University and Dalian University of Technology have published their study today, Friday 10 August, in IOP Publishing's journal Nanotechnology.
Offering guidelines to the creation of these electrotactile stimulation devices for use on surgeons' fingertips, their paper describes the materials, fabrication strategies and device designs, using ultrathin, stretchable, silicon-based electronics and soft sensors that can be mounted onto an artificial 'skin' and fitted to fingertips.
"Imagine the ability to sense the electrical properties of tissue, and then locally remove that tissue, precisely by local ablation, all via the fingertips using smart surgical gloves. Alternatively, or perhaps in addition, ultrasound imaging could be possible," said co-author of the study Professor John Rogers.
The researchers suggest that the new technology could open up possibilities for surgical robots that can interact, in a soft contacting mode, with their surroundings through touch.
The electronic circuit on the 'skin' is made of patterns of gold conductive lines and ultrathin sheets of silicon, integrated onto a flexible polymer called polyimide. The sheet is then etched into an open mesh geometry and transferred to a thin sheet of silicone rubber moulded into the precise shape of a finger.
This electronic 'skin', or finger cuff, was designed to measure the stresses and strains at the fingerti
|Contact: Michael Bishop|
Institute of Physics