High-Resolution Thin-Film Device to Sense Texture by Touch

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Science  09 Jun 2006:
Vol. 312, Issue 5779, pp. 1501-1504
DOI: 10.1126/science.1126216

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Touch (or tactile) sensors are gaining renewed interest as the level of sophistication in the application of minimum invasive surgery and humanoid robots increases. The spatial resolution of current large-area (greater than 1 cm2) tactile sensor lags by more than an order of magnitude compared with the human finger. By using metal and semiconducting nanoparticles, a ∼100-nm-thick, large-area thin-film device is self-assembled such that the change in current density through the film and the electroluminescent light intensity are linearly proportional to the local stress. A stress image is obtained by pressing a copper grid and a United States 1-cent coin on the device and focusing the resulting electroluminescent light directly on the charge-coupled device. Both the lateral and height resolution of texture are comparable to the human finger at similar stress levels of ∼10 kilopascals.

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