Australian Researchers Develop Artificial Skin Sensitive to Pain

Researchers at the Royal Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, have successfully developed a new type of artificial skin, able to feel the pain. While artificial skin is nothing new, as are skin sensitive to touch developed in laboratories, the fact that artificial skin can feel the sensation of pain is unprecedented.

“Until now, no electronic technology has been able to realistically mimic this very human sensation of pain. Our artificial skin reacts instantly when pressure, heat or cold reaches a painful threshold. This is a crucial step in the future development of the sophisticated feedback systems that we need to deliver truly intelligent prosthetics and intelligent robotics, ”explained Professor Madhu Bhaskaran, principal investigator on the project.

The various electronic components that the skin is able to feel pain. It incorporates pressure sensors, a temperature-reactive coating and a memory cell similar to that of the brain. Artificial skin is able to mimic “the body’s almost instantaneous feedback response and can respond to pain sensations with the same speed of light as nerve signals travel to the brain.”

“We feel things through the skin all the time, but our pain response only kicks in at a certain point, like when we touch something that’s too hot or too sharp. No electronic technology has been able to realistically mimic this very human sensation of pain – until now. Our artificial skin reacts instantly when pressure, heat or cold reach a painful threshold, ”continues the researcher.

This new type of skin is a crucial step in the future development of intelligent prostheses, but also in the context of robotics. The pain-sensitive skin is still only a prototype, but it is really encouraging. It will certainly take several more years before it is incorporated into prosthetics.