Sensors 2013, 13(5), 6578-6604; doi:10.3390/s130506578
Article

Soft, Transparent, Electronic Skin for Distributed and Multiple Pressure Sensing

1 Center for Micro-BioRobotics@SSSA, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Viale Rinaldo Piaggio 34, Pontedera 56025, PI, Italy 2 The BioRobotics Institute, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, Polo Sant'Anna Valdera, Viale Rinaldo Piaggio 34, Pontedera 56025, PI, Italy 3 Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, Centre for Mathematical Sciences, University of Cambridge, Wilberforce Road, Cambridge CB3 0WA, UK
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 23 March 2013; in revised form: 19 April 2013 / Accepted: 3 May 2013 / Published: 17 May 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Optomechatronics)
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Abstract: In this paper we present a new optical, flexible pressure sensor that can be applied as smart skin to a robot or to consumer electronic devices. We describe a mechano-optical transduction principle that can allow the encoding of information related to an externally applied mechanical stimulus, e.g., contact, pressure and shape of contact. The physical embodiment that we present in this work is an electronic skin consisting of eight infrared emitters and eight photo-detectors coupled together and embedded in a planar PDMS waveguide of 5.5 cm diameter. When a contact occurs on the sensing area, the optical signals reaching the peripheral detectors experience a loss because of the Frustrated Total Internal Reflection and deformation of the material. The light signal is converted to electrical signal through an electronic system and a reconstruction algorithm running on a computer reconstructs the pressure map. Pilot experiments are performed to validate the tactile sensing principle by applying external pressures up to 160 kPa. Moreover, the capabilities of the electronic skin to detect contact pressure at multiple subsequent positions, as well as its function on curved surfaces, are validated. A weight sensitivity of 0.193 gr−1 was recorded, thus making the electronic skin suitable to detect pressures in the order of few grams.
Keywords: optical; artificial skin; electronic skin; tactile sensor; pressure sensor; pressure distribution; soft; flexible

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MDPI and ACS Style

Levi, A.; Piovanelli, M.; Furlan, S.; Mazzolai, B.; Beccai, L. Soft, Transparent, Electronic Skin for Distributed and Multiple Pressure Sensing. Sensors 2013, 13, 6578-6604.

AMA Style

Levi A, Piovanelli M, Furlan S, Mazzolai B, Beccai L. Soft, Transparent, Electronic Skin for Distributed and Multiple Pressure Sensing. Sensors. 2013; 13(5):6578-6604.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Levi, Alessandro; Piovanelli, Matteo; Furlan, Silvano; Mazzolai, Barbara; Beccai, Lucia. 2013. "Soft, Transparent, Electronic Skin for Distributed and Multiple Pressure Sensing." Sensors 13, no. 5: 6578-6604.

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