Chinese researchers have created a special electronic finger that is more advanced than before, which can also map objects beneath the surface of objects.

Thanks to science, robots are getting closer and closer, and one day they will be equipped with the same – or even better – characteristics of humans. Chinese scientists have now created a bionic version of the highly sensitive human fingertip, which can tell by touch what is beneath the surface of objects more accurately than the human version – detected by Cell Physical Science Reports From a study published in the journal.

As the authors point out, previous similar solutions can only recognize and distinguish some objects: external shapes, surface structure and hardness. However, their great disadvantage was that they could not “see” under the surface or provide information about it. This still usually requires optical techniques – computed tomography, positron emission tomography, etc.

When a human finger is touched, it experiences a mechanical deformation—compression or tension—that begins in the form of electrical impulses. This enters the somatosensory cortex of the brain through the central nervous system, and ultimately the brain processes this – summed up Ars Technica. This is how we can learn about the material’s shape, hardness, etc.

The smart electronic finger created by Chinese researchers works on a similar principle – a metal material on top of the finger acts as a contact, while a carbon fiber part is responsible for touch sensing. These are connected to the signal processing unit.


When a finger feels the surface of an object, the carbon fibers in it are compressed, and thus information is collected about the material’s relative hardness or softness. The information gathered in this way—and where it is recorded on the surface—is sent to a computer that can convert the data into a 3D map.

The researchers also tested the electronic finger – for example, to see if it could recognize and map the hard letter “A” under a layer of soft silicone. The result was very positive. But even with a malfunctioning electrical device, the fingertip proved useful: It was able to create a map of the internal components and pinpoint exactly where the circuit was broken.

The researchers also created a 3D model of human tissue, and the robotic finger succeeded in “seeing” it all.

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