Quantum Tunnelling Composite Materials to Aid Next Generation Tactile Robotic Skin Development

February 23, 2010

Peratech Limited has been commissioned by the MIT Media Lab to develop a new type of electronic 'skin' that enables robotic devices to detect not only that they have been touched but also where and how hard the touch was.

The key to the is Peratech's patented 'QTC' materials. QTC's, or Quantum Tunnelling Composites, are a unique new material type which provides a measured response to force and/or touch by changing its - much as a dimmer light switch controls a light bulb. This enables a simple within the robot to determine touch. Being easily formed into unique shapes - including being 'draped' over an object much like a garment might, QTC's provide a metaphor for how human skin works to detect touch.

Uniquely, QTC's provide a 'proportional' response - in other words detecting 'how hard' they have been touched. Further, using Peratech's patented xy scanning technology, the robot is able to detect where on a matrix of sensors applied to areas such as the forearms, shoulders and torso, it has been touched.

As robotic devices continue to make inroads to our daily life, their ability to understand the presence and interaction with humans and other objects within a space becomes critically important. This research project is hoped to produce results which could soon be applied to a range of robotics projects that MIT works upon.

Peratech's QTC technology has an established track record for use in robotics, having previously been adopted by NASA for their Robonaut device and by Shadow Robot in the UK, producers of what is widely regarded as the World's most advanced , which have utilised QTC to sense 'touch'. However, this project with MIT is a World first in enabling a human to interact - through touch across the body of a robot - much as they would with another human.

QTC's are electro-active made from metallic or non-metallic filler particles combined in an elastomeric binder. These enable the action of 'touch' to be translated into an electrical reaction, enabling a vast array of devices to incorporate very thin and highly robust 'sensing' of touch and pressure. QTC’s unique properties enable it to be made into force sensitive switches of any shape or size. QTC switches and switch matrices can be screen printed allowing for development and integration of switches that are as thin as 75 microns.

QTC is also low power and interfaces can be designed with no start resistance so that without pressure, the switch draws no power and passes no current. Importantly, when pressure is applied, the resistance drops in proportion to the amount of pressure which allows sophisticated human machine interface designs that react to variations in pressure. QTC technology has no moving parts and requires no air gap between contacts. This makes it extremely reliable and suitable for integration into the thinnest electronic designs and with industry leading operational life.

Explore further: Industry’s First Conductive Polymer Film Touch Panels from Fujitsu

More information: www.peratech.com/qtcmaterial.php

Related Stories

Nano World: Finger-sensitive sensor films

June 13, 2006

Devices comparable in sensitivity to human fingers, enabled by a novel film embedded with nanoparticles, could offer the first step toward giving robotics hands the delicacy of the human touch, experts told UPI's Nano World.

Underwater robot with a sense of touch

May 4, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Maintenance of offshore drilling rigs or underwater cables, taking samples of sediment - underwater robots perform a variety of deep-sea tasks. Research scientists now aim to equip robots with tactile capability ...

Researchers unveil whiskered robot rat

June 30, 2009

A team of scientists have developed an innovative robot rat which can seek out and identify objects using its whiskers. The SCRATCHbot robot will be demonstrated this week at an international workshop looking at how robots ...

Robot's gentle touch aids delicate cancer surgery

August 21, 2009

New, delicate surgery techniques to hunt for tumours could benefit from a lighter touch - but from a robot, rather than from a human hand. Canadian researchers have created a touchy-feely robot that detects tougher tumour ...

New multi-touch screen technology developed (w/ Video)

January 12, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists from New York University have formed a company to bring flexible multi-touch screens using a new technology to a range of devices, from e-readers to musical instruments. The new touch screens respond ...

Recommended for you

A new form of real gold, almost as light as air

November 25, 2015

Researchers at ETH Zurich have created a new type of foam made of real gold. It is the lightest form ever produced of the precious metal: a thousand times lighter than its conventional form and yet it is nearly impossible ...

Getting under the skin of a medieval mystery

November 23, 2015

A simple PVC eraser has helped an international team of scientists led by bioarchaeologists at the University of York to resolve the mystery surrounding the tissue-thin parchment used by medieval scribes to produce the first ...

Moonlighting molecules: Finding new uses for old enzymes

November 27, 2015

A collaboration between the University of Cambridge and MedImmune, the global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca, has led researchers to identify a potentially significant new application for a well-known ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (2) Feb 24, 2010
February 24, 2010: Japanese scientists incorporate new QTC skin into advanced sex robot.
not rated yet Feb 24, 2010
Advances like these are very exciting. Combined with the advanced robotic hand and techniques for interfacing with the nervous system, we are getting close to being able to provide fully functional prosthetic limbs. Imagine restoring full mobility _and_ sense of touch to an amputee!

And yes, sex robots will be nice too. Be careful with those though - if I learned anything from Futurama it's that relationships with robots are bad!
not rated yet Feb 28, 2010
Its all cool and all, but what does it have to do with quantum tunneling?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.