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Optical Micro/Nanofiber-Enabled Compact Tactile Sensor for Hardness Discrimination

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journal contribution
posted on 13.01.2021, 09:30 authored by Yao Tang, Haitao Liu, Jing Pan, Zhang Zhang, Yue Xu, Ni Yao, Lei Zhang, Limin Tong
Optical micro/nanofibers (MNFs) can be applied for ultrasensitive tactile sensing with fast response and compact size, which are attractive for restoring tactile information in minimally invasive robotic surgery and tissue palpation. Herein, we present a compact tactile sensor (CTS) with a diameter of 1.5 mm enabled by an optical MNF. The CTS provides continuous readouts for high-fidelity transduction of touch and pressure stimuli into interpretable optical signals, which permit instantaneous sensing of contact and pressure with pressure-sensing sensitivity as high as 0.108 mN–1 and a resolution of 0.031 mN. Working in pressing mode, the CTS can discriminate the difference in the hardness of two poly­(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) slats (with shore A of 36 and 40) directly, a hardness resolving ability even beyond the human hands. Benefitting from the fast response feature, the CTS can also be operated in either scanning or tapping mode, making it feasible for hardness identification by analyzing the shape of the response curve. As a proof of concept, the hardness discrimination of a pork liver and an adductor muscle was experimentally demonstrated. Such MNF-enabled compact tactile sensors may pave the way for hardness sensing in tissue palpation, surgical robotics, and object identification.

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