This might sound like something out of a science fiction book, but South Korean scientists have developed an artificial skin that can feel heat, wetness and pressure. The skin is our body's largest organ and is very complex. Its main job is to keep all our juicy inside bits from falling out, but its also responsible for feeling a range of sensations and shaping the way we experience and interact with the world. Although there are some amazingly advanced prosthetics out there, having no sensation whatsoever is less than satisfactory for those who need to use them. This artificial skin could be an amazing leap forward.
Researchers tested out the skin in a number of situations, including holding hot and cold cups, typing and distinguishing between a wet diaper and a dry diaper. The latter situation is explained in this picture below:
The next step, before it can be put into practical use, is to work out how to link the skin up to the wearer's brain, so that they can experience the sensations firsthand (no pun intended). This isn't as mad as it might sound, as there are already some prosthetic hands that link up to the brain.
Popular Science explains why the skin looks the way it does and how it manages to feel:
The bulk of the new skin is composed of a flexible, transparent silicone material called polydimethylsiloxane — or PDMS. Embedded within it are silicon nannoribbons that generate electricity when they're squished or stretched, providing a source of tactile feedback. They can also sense whether an object is hot or cold. The humidity sensors are made up of capacitors. When the polymer surrounding a capacitor absorbs water, the moisture changes the polymer's ability to store a charge. The capacitors measure that storage change and use it to determine the moisture levels of the environment."
This truly is an awesome invention and we hope it can be put to good use helping people soon!