Zhenan Bao, a chemical engineer at Stanford University, works on plastics that she hopes will one day be used as artificial skin for prostheses. Prostheses have come a long way from simple wooden legs or hook hands; now advanced prosthetics contain motors and can respond to electrical signals from nerve endings. Prostheses are even being created with 3D printers, offering a low cost solution for children who need a number of different sized prostheses as they grow.
One thing that has always been missing from these prostheses is the sense of touch, and that’s where Bao’s research comes into play. She has developed a thin, stretchy plastic that can respond to pressure and even has the potential to heal itself. While there is still more research to be done – such as determining how best to power the skin (Bao’s team is thinking about using light) – she’s hoping that in the future her skins will be able to replicate touch for those using prosthetic limbs or hands.
Read more at NPR
Image credit: Bao Research Group, Stanford University