LONDON, March 23 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Amputees
with prosthetic limbs may soon have much a better sense of
touch, temperature and texture, thanks to the energy-saving
power of the sun, British researchers said on Thursday.
While prosthetics are usually fully powered using batteries,
a new prototype from University of Glasgow researchers opens up
the possibility for so-called “solar-powered skin”, which would
include better sense capabilities than current technology.
“If an entity is going out in a sunny day, then they won't
need any battery” to activate their senses, said Ravinder
Dahiya, a research fellow at the university and a leader of the
study. ”They can feel, without worrying about battery.”
The technology involves installing a thin layer of pure
carbon around a prosthetic arm, hand or leg. This allows light
to pass through it and be easily used as solar energy, the
researchers said in a research paper.
The sun can provide up to 15 times more energy than is
usually needed to power a prosthetic limb, Dahiya said.
This extra — and renewable — energy can be used to power
sensors that increase sense and feeling in a limb, so much so
that the prosthetic can feel pressure, temperature and texture
like natural skin, the paper said.
“The skin is sensitive to touch and pressure, so when you
touch the skin there you will know what point you are contacting
and how much force you are applying,” Dahiya said, describing
The scientists are the first to develop a model for
solar-powered prosthetic skin, he told the Thomson Reuters
The technology could also increase the functionality of
robots, allowing them to have a better understanding of what
they touch and interact with, according to Dahiya.
If robots had limbs that are sensitive to touch and pressure
they would be less likely to make errors or injure humans, he
The researchers hope to further develop the prototype in the
next two years, Dahiya said. Eventually, he hopes to power the
limb’s motors with the renewable energy as well — rather than
just the skin.
“Because we are saving a lot of energy, our vision is that
... if we store this energy in some way we will be able to also
power the motors with the energy,” he said.
“The prosthetic will be fully energy autonomous.”
(Reporting by J.D. Capelouto; Editing by Alex Whiting. (Please
credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of
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