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Solar Skins, Still Far-fetched?

March 30, 2017

The potential of solar has changed tremendously over the last few years, right from applications in power generation to consumer applications. Humans around the world are striving and finding out ways to harness this energy from the sun for daily needs.

 

One of the recent advances has been the development of an innovative way of using the sun to power a "synthetic skin" used on prosthetic limbs. Engineers at the University of Glasgow in Scotland are the pioneers in this development, using sunlight to power an artificial synthetic skin used on prosthetic limbs using Graphene. The advantages of graphene are being transparent, electrically conductive and a single atom thick but stronger than steel. The material gathers energy from sun and powers the skin. 

 

According to Ravinder Dahiya at the University of Glasgow, human skin can detect changes in pressure, temperature and texture through natural sensors and send signals from the skin to the brain. The prosthetic prototypes integrated with the synthetic skin is capable of performing tasks which other prosthetics cannot including gripping soft materials. One of the good thing is that this new skin requires only 20 nano-watts of power per square centimeter which is a very small number easily generated by even low quality photovoltaic cells available in the market. Add this to the graphene property allowing 90% of the light that hits its surface to pass through, it makes this concept highly efficient.

 

Having identified an opportunity to transform lives with powered skin the next step would be to develop a better power generating technology that powers the motor directly which drives the prosthetic hand. The future looks progressive in this field with the creation of an entirely energy-autonomous prosthetic limb.

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