Soft resistive tactile sensors are versatile devices with applications in next-generation flexible electronics. We developed a novel type of soft resistive tactile sensor called a soft magnetic powdery sensor (soft-MPS) and evaluated its response characteristics. The soft-MPS comprises ferromagnetic powder that is immobilized in a liquid resin such as polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) after orienting in a magnetic field. On applying an external force to the sensor, the relative distance between particles changes, thereby affecting its resistance. Since the ferromagnetic powders are in contact from the initial state, they have the ability to detect small contact forces compared to conventional resistive sensors in which the conductive powder is dispersed in a flexible material. The sensor unit can be made in any shape by controlling the layout of the magnetic field. Soft-MPSs with different hardnesses that could detect small forces were fabricated. The soft-MPS could be applied to detect collisions in robot hands/arms or in ultra-sensitive touchscreen devices.
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