Burn victims are often left with skin that could no longer feel, especially those who suffered from deep third-degree burns. Recent research however, showed that there could still be hope for them as a group of scientists has developed artificial human-like skin that could potentially restore their sense of touch.

A study titled, "Artificial multimodal receptors based on ion relaxation dynamics" published in the journal Science, showed how a research team developed a multimodal ion-electronic skin, which could distinguish between mechanical stimuli and temperature. This artificial skin can detect movement and could be applied in different fields such as temperature sensors and humanoid skin.

A research team made up of scientists from Pohang University of Science & Technology (POSTECH) and Stanford University, developed the multimodal ion-electronic skin, which has the capability to measure both mechanical stimulation and temperature at the same time.

The researchers recognized that human skin can stretch and yet remain unbreakable because of its electrolyte composition. Taking a cue from this, they made the sensors on the ion-electronic skin using electrolytes. They also made a multifunctional artificial receptor, which could measure temperature and tactile sensation all at the same time.

The researchers also included an artificial receptor, which could accurately measure the temperature of the object that is applied. It could also detect stimuli like pinching, squeezing, twisting, and spreading.

"When an index finger touches an electronic skin, the electronic skin detects contact as a temperature change, and when a finger pushes the skin, the back part of the contact area stretches and recognizes it as movement," said Dr Insang You, of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at POSTECH.

Research team developed a multimodal ion-electronic skin. Photo: Pixabay

Another professor of POSTECH, Unyong Jeong, who also happens to be one of the authors, said that their study is the first step that would open the door for multimodal electronic skin research that makes use of electrolytes. He further explained that their ultimate goal is to create artificial ion-electronic skin that can simulate receptors on the human skin, as well as the neurotransmitters. Eventually, this will help restore the sense of touch of patients who have lost it either through accidents like getting burned or because of illness.