Artificial Nerves Move Biological Muscle | Digital Asia


Researchers Stanford University, US, and Seoul National University (SNU), South Korea, have developed artificial mechano sensory nerves using flexible organic devices to emulate sensory afferent nerves. Their findings have been published in Science.

Biological nervous systems can solve real-world problems, such as visual image processing, voice recognition, tactile sensing and movement control. Scientists and engineers have drawn inspiration from these biological examples to develop neuromorphic computing, bio inspired sensors, robot control and prosthetics.

Earlier approaches involved software run on conventional digital computers and circuit designs, using classical silicon devices that are limited by their power consumption, cost and reliability.

In this study, a team of scientists has created mechanosensory nerves that mimic the signal processing and functionality of biological systems. These organic devices are flexible, tunable and can be printed on a large area at low cost.

The artificial mechano sensory nerve consists of three essential components: mechano receptors ( resistive pressure sensors), neurons (organic ring oscillators) and synapses (organic electro chemical transistors). The pressure information from artificial mechano receptors can be converted to action potentials through artificial neurons. Multiple action potentials can be integrated into an artificial synapse to move biological muscles.

The researchers used their artificial mechano sensory nerves to detect large-scale textures and object movements and distinguish braille characters. They also connected the artificial mechano sensory nerves to motor nerves in a detached insect leg to control muscles.

“Our artificial mechanosensory nerves can be used for bioinspired robots and prosthetics compatible with and comfortable for humans.” said Professor Lee Tae-Woo of SNU, who is a co-corresponding author of the study. “The development of human-like robots and prosthetics that help people with neurological disabilities can benefit from our work.”

The article can be found at: Kim et al. (2018) A Bioinspired Flexible Organic Artificial Afferent Nerve.


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