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Recovering the sense of touch thanks to carbon nanotubes

aprile 26, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Nanotube

Scientific research and technology can help improve our health and make our life better, especially for those who are impaired in one of the five vital senses. In this case, we are talking about the sense of touch, which can be lost following to an accident or a disease affecting the Central Nervous System, but that can be artificially recovered, at least partly.

In fact, a research project at the Tennessee-based Oak Ridge National Laboratory seems to provide great results thanks to carbon nanotubes so thin that a glass fiber just 4 times thicker than a human hair can contain up to 20 thousand of them.

The nanotubes can basically work just like the nervous receptors covering the human skin; in fact, aside from having a microscopic size, which makes it possible to use them in such density, they are also electrical conductors.

Therefore, with these characteristics, they are a perfect solution for systems which replicate the functionality of the human nervous system. In fact, on our fingers we can find up to 2500 nervous receptors per square centimeter, a density that is in the same range of glass fibers containing nanotubes.

Each one of the tubes is individually insulated, thus enabling it to carry a single electrical pulse and increase the receptor’s sensitivity. At the moment there are no real life applications for this technology, which is still in its early stages and is now being improved to reach a high conductivity.
This project might in the near future prove very useful for patients deprived of their sense of touch, who might be able to recover, if not all their functionality, at least a significant part.

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