Artificial multimodal receptors based on ion relaxation dynamics

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Science  20 Nov 2020:
Vol. 370, Issue 6519, pp. 961-965
DOI: 10.1126/science.aba5132

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Feeling temperature and touch

The range of receptors in our skin make it possible to sense when we are touching an object and also gives us a general sense of the temperature of that object. Achieving this in an artificial skin-like material has been a challenge because most of the approaches for sensing touch are themselves temperature sensitive. You et al. studied the ion relaxation dynamics in a conductive elastomeric film (see the Perspective by Liu). They show that the ion relaxation time can be used as a strain-insensitive intrinsic variable for detecting temperature and the capacitance can be used as a temperature-insensitive extrinsic variable for sensing the strain, thus decoupling the two so that their signals do not interfere with each other.

Science, this issue p. 961; see also p. 910


Human skin has different types of tactile receptors that can distinguish various mechanical stimuli from temperature. We present a deformable artificial multimodal ionic receptor that can differentiate thermal and mechanical information without signal interference. Two variables are derived from the analysis of the ion relaxation dynamics: the charge relaxation time as a strain-insensitive intrinsic variable to measure absolute temperature and the normalized capacitance as a temperature-insensitive extrinsic variable to measure strain. The artificial receptor with a simple electrode-electrolyte-electrode structure simultaneously detects temperature and strain by measuring the variables at only two measurement frequencies. The human skin–like multimodal receptor array, called multimodal ion-electronic skin (IEM-skin), provides real-time force directions and strain profiles in various tactile motions (shear, pinch, spread, torsion, and so on).

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