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Rubbery Semiconductor Could Allow Doctors to Practice Remotely

University of Houston researchers produced a smart electronic skin and a medical robotic hand.

A robotic hand that functions similarly to a human hand would allow doctors to remotely treat patients across the globe for all sorts of ailments.

However, currently available technologies are still a way off of providing a replacement for that human touch.

Now, researchers from the University of Houston have designed and produced a smart electronic skin and a medical robotic hand that uses a newly invented rubbery semiconductor with high carrier mobility to assess vital diagnostic data. 

RELATED: SCIENTISTS MADE A ROBOT HAND SO SOFT IT CAN HANDLE A JELLYFISH

Mimicking biological tissue

The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Science Advances, say that their rubbery semiconductor material can be easily scaled for manufacturing.

Unlike traditional semiconductors, the new technology is not brittle. It also doesn't have low carrier mobility, like previous stretchable semiconductors. 

What's more, it paves the way to "soft, stretchy rubbery electronics and integrated systems that mimic the mechanical softness of biological tissues," University of Houston press release explains.

Rubbery Semiconductor Could Allow Doctors to Practice Remotely
Source: University of Houston

The end result will be suitable for a variety of emerging applications, Cunjiang Yu, a corresponding author of the study says.

Retaining electric performance at a 50 percent stretch

Yu and collaborators revealed last year that adding tiny amounts of metallic carbon nanotubes to the rubbery semiconductor of P3HT improves carrier mobility.

Impressively, their newly-developed rubbery semiconductor retains electrical performance even when the semiconductor is stretched by 50 percent, the researchers reported — Yu gave the slightly frightening comparison that human skin can be stretched only about 30 percent before tearing.

The technology could have a wide range of applications for soft robotics, from robots made to explore harsh environments, disaster response robots, and medical robotic applications.

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