Researchers at Monash University have developed a new material that is more sensitive than human skin.
The elastomer, created from wonder material graphene, is flexible, ultra-light, and sponge-like in texture. It's capable of sensing pressure and vibration across an impressive range of frequencies.
"It far exceeds the response range of our skin," said Dr. Ling Qiu of the Monash Centre for Atomically Thin Materials, or MCATM. "It also has a very fast response time, much faster than conventional polymer elastomer."
Because of how well the graphene elastomer responds to touch, in addition to its known durability and ability to react to temperature (opens in new tab), scientists speculate that the material could be used in developing highly-advanced prosthetic limbs, as well as other flexible electronics.
"Although we often take it for granted, the pressure sensors in our skin allow us to do things like hold a cup without dropping it, crushing it, or spilling the contents," explained Qiu. "The sensitivity and response time of the elastomer could allow a prosthetic hand or a robot to be even more dexterous than a human."
While Deus Ex-style robotic augmentations are still a ways away, Professor Dan Li, a director at MCATM, is still excited by the findings.
"Although we are still in the early stages of discovering graphene's potential," Li said, "this research is an excellent breakthrough."