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Scientists Working on Solar-Powered Prosthetic Limbs

Synthetic skin could use sun's energy to power the devices, researchers say

artificial leg prosthesis

THURSDAY, March 23, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- It may be possible to use the sun's energy to power artificial limbs, U.K. researchers report.

The University of Glasgow team previously developed an "electronic skin" covering for prosthetic hands made from graphene, a transparent substance that is stronger than steel.

Graphene's transparency allows around 98 percent of the light that strikes its surface to pass through it. This makes it ideal for gathering solar energy, the researchers explained in a university news release.

In their new study, the scientists integrated photovoltaic cells into their graphene skin. Photovoltaic cells generate power when illuminated. The graphene skin requires just 20 nanowatts of power per square centimeter. That's easily provided by even the poorest-quality photovoltaic cells currently available, the Scottish team noted.

Currently, energy generated by the graphene skin's photovoltaic cells cannot be stored. But the scientists are investigating methods to channel unused energy into batteries, so it can be used when needed.

The research could lead to energy-independent artificial limbs, said study leader Ravinder Dahiya, from the university's School of Engineering.

The new study was published in the March 22 issue of the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

More information

The Amputee Coalition has more on prosthetics.

SOURCE: University of Glasgow, news release, March 22, 2017
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