Researchers at INL – International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory, in collaboration with Centro de Computação Gráfica and Edilásio developed a tactile sensor which mimics the detection ability of human fingerprints.
Tactile perception, or touch perception, is the brain’s ability to perceive information coming from the skin. Humans can recognise a surface by touching it, to feel the static pressure distribution created by the surface profile, or by sliding on it, to feel the vibration generated by dynamic contact with the fine texture. It is essential that tactile sensors that mimic the human ability to perceive surfaces are able to detect force distribution with high spatial and temporal resolution.
The flexible tactile sensor developed at INL, under the project ‘Product in Touch’, uses polyimide-based microfabrication technology, and provides sub-millimetre spatial resolution, reproducing a morphology detection similar to the sensitivity of human fingertips. The flexibility of the tactile sensor enables the conformal integration of the device onto complex geometries while maintaining normal morphology sensitivity. The technology has been used to extract real surface texture parameters for virtual reality environments.
Furthermore, the sensor has the potential to be used in artificial multimodal fingers, robotics and robot grippers, and in the feedback loop of control systems where 2D surface morphology with the sub-millimetre spatial resolution is critical. The possibility of applying this technology will add increased value and will also raise these products in terms of competitiveness.