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Super-sensitive and battery-free strain sensors developed

The nanomaterial strain sensors come in the form of surface sensors and they also have the ability to transmit data wirelessly. Given the properties of the sensors, they have a number of uses for a wide range of applications. The primary focus of the research, however, was with improving the precision of robotic arms. This relates to a variety of industrial and medical operations.

The development comes from the National University of Singapore. Here researchers created flexible, stretchable, and electrically conductive nanomaterials termed MXenes. These are a class of two-dimensional inorganic compounds. These materials consist of few-atoms-thick layers of transition metal carbides, nitrides, or carbonitrides.

The reason why there is the interest in these types of sensors across different industries is because of the ability to detect the smallest possible movements, something that has an application in a field like surgery. The improved sensitivity rested on making fine improvements to the signal-to-noise ratio.

The sensors have been tested out using robotic arms. With standard robotic arms, of the type found in car manufacturing as an example, such devices use external cameras to control the positioning and movement of the arm. Instead the new sensors work on the basis of an electronic skin. The sensitivity layer not only senses the most subtle of movements, the material can also be stretched without any loss of functionality, making them ideal for robotics applications.

The ultra-sensitive strain sensors were found to have an error margin of less than one degree. This means that future state robotic arms will not need external cameras or any type of visual input in order to operate with sensitivity and accuracy.

The research has been published in ACS Nano, where the paper is titled “Wireless Ti3C2Tx MXene Strain Sensor with Ultrahigh Sensitivity and Designated Working Windows for Soft Exoskeletons.”

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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