New research suggests that it may soon be possible to use the sun’s energy to power artificial limbs.
Researchers at the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom had 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.
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 is easily provided by even the poorest-quality photovoltaic cells currently available, the research 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 has the potential to lead to energy-independent artificial limbs.