Skin Powered by the Sun? Energy-Saving Prosthetic Limbs Get Better Feeling

Skin Powered by the Sun? Energy-Saving Prosthetic Limbs Get Better Feeling

Published By: Reuters, 3/22/2017

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Researchers from the University of Glasgow, UK, have developed a prototype for solar-powered prosthetic skin. The prosthesis is wrapped in a thin layer of carbon, which allows light to pass through the skin and be collected as energy. Thus far, the prototype uses this energy to power additional sensors in the prosthetic, giving the skin a heightened sensitivity to pressure and texture as well as temperature.

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level of Article: 13.6

Extended Discussion Questions

  • Is there anyone you know who has a prosthetic? How might additional sensors in prosthetic limbs help people in their day-to-day lives?
  • The article mentions at least one disadvantage this method has compared with, say, solar cells: the energy can’t (yet) be stored. What advantages could this technology have over solar cells?
    • Why are those advantages important for prosthetic limbs?
    • What other applications might make use of those advantages?
  • To be useful, sensor data from prosthetics has to be transmitted back to the brain of the person with the prosthetic. Can you think of any potential uses for that kind of interface beyond replicating what someone could do with a biological limb?
    • What are some potential benefits of those uses?
    • Are there any potential dangers from those uses?

Relating This Story to the CSP Curriculum Framework

Global Impact Learning Objectives:

  • LO 7.1.1 Explain how computing innovations affect communication, interaction, and cognition.

Global Impact Essential Knowledge:

  • EK 7.1.1J Sensor networks facilitate new ways of interacting with the environment and with physical systems.
  • EK 7.1.1L Computing contributes to many assistive technologies that enhance human capabilities.
  • EK 7.2.1G Advances in computing as an enabling technology have generated and increased the creativity in other fields.

Banner Image:Network Visualization – Violet – Offset Crop“, derivative work by ICSI. New license: CC BY-SA 4.0. Based on “Social Network Analysis Visualization” by Martin Grandjean. Original license: CC BY-SA 3.0.

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