M. S. Lavine, Sensitive skin for feeling the heat. Science Vol. 355, Issue 6324, pp. 490
Artificial membranes that are sensitive to temperature are needed in robotics to augment interactions with humans and the environment and in bioengineering to improve prosthetic limbs. Existing flexible sensors achieved sensitivities of <100 mK and large responsivity albeit within narrow (<5 K) temperature ranges. Other flexible devices, working in wider temperature ranges, exhibit orders of magnitude poorer responses. However, much more versatile and temperature sensitive membranes are present in animals such as pit vipers, whose pit membranes have the highest sensitivity and responsivity in nature and are used to locate warm-blooded preys at distance.
We show that pectin films mimic the sensing mechanism of pit membranes and parallel their record performances. These films map temperature on surfaces with a sensitivity of at least 10 mK in a wide temperature range (45 K), have very high responsivity, and detect warm bodies at distance. The produced material can be integrated as a layer in artificial skins platforms and boost their temperature sensitivity to reach the best biological performance.