July 13, 2024

Color-Based Sensor Developed to Enhance Sensitivity in Wearable Devices and Soft Robotics

Researchers at the École Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) have created a color-based sensor that can perceive multiple mechanical and temperature stimuli.

While robotics researchers have made significant advancements in developing sensors that can detect changes in position, pressure, and temperature, perceiving multiple stimuli simultaneously has posed a challenge. However, the team at EPFL’s Reconfigurable Robotics Lab (RRL) has devised a robust system that uses color to sense combinations of bending, stretching, compression, and temperature changes.

The technology, called ChromoSense, is based on a translucent rubber cylinder containing three sections dyed red, green, and blue. A top-mounted LED sends light through the core of the device, and changes in the light’s path through the colors are detected by a miniature spectral meter at the bottom. As the device is bent or stretched, variations in the light traveling through the colored sections are perceived.

ChromoSense also includes a thermosensitive section that can detect temperature changes using a special dye that changes color when heated. This feature enables the sensor to have a broader range of applications.

The researchers believe that ChromoSense has the potential for inexpensive mass production due to its simplified mechanical structure and usage of color instead of cameras. In addition to assistive technologies, such as exosuits, the team envisions everyday applications for ChromoSense in athletic gear or clothing. By embedding the sensor into these products, it can provide users with feedback about their form and movements.

However, there are still challenges to overcome. One such challenge is the ability to decouple multiple stimuli that are applied simultaneously. Currently, the researchers are focusing on improving the technology to perceive locally applied forces and determine the exact boundaries of a material as it changes shape.

If ChromoSense becomes widely adopted as a general-purpose robotic sensing solution, the researchers anticipate the need to increase the information density of the sensor. This would be an interesting challenge to pursue in the future.

Moving forward, the team plans to experiment with different formats for ChromoSense. While it has been prototyped as a cylindrical shape and as part of a wearable soft exosuit, it can also be developed in a flat form that is more suitable for the RRL’s origami robots.

In conclusion, ChromoSense offers a novel approach to enhancing the sensitivity of soft robots and wearable technologies through color-based sensing. With its ability to perceive multiple stimuli simultaneously, this technology has the potential to revolutionize a wide range of industries and applications.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it