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My, you have such soft e-skin!

Japanese researchers say they have developed a rubber that's able to conduct electricity well, paving the way for robots with stretchable "e-skin."

Researcher shows e-skin
In his laboratory at Tokyo University, researcher Tsuyoshi Sekitani displays a robot hand and an elastic sheet containing carbon nanotubes that conduct electricity.
AFP Photo/Yoshikazu Tsuno

Japanese researchers say they have developed a rubber-like material that's able to conduct electricity, paving the way for robots with stretchable "e-skin" that can feel heat and pressure like humans.

The material, described by Tsuyoshi Sekitani of the University of Tokyo in the journal Science, could be used on curved surfaces or even in moving parts, such as the joints of a robot's arm, the researchers said.

Sekitani's team developed their material using carbon nanotubes, a long stretch of carbon molecules that can conduct electricity. They mixed these into a rubbery polymer to form the basic material. Next, they attached a grid of tiny transistors to the material and put it to the test.

They stretched the sheet of material to nearly double its original size, and it snapped back into place, they said, without disrupting the transistors or ruining the material's conductive properties.

Reuters contributed to this report.