Sensitive robots capable of cradling an egg without breaking it could be developed from research into crystalline semiconductors.
A team at the University of California - Berkeley has investigated nanowires made of inorganic single crystalline semiconductors and developed a touch-sensitive 'skin'.
Rather than being intended for use in human cosmetic or reconstructive surgery, this is planned for industrial applications, such as the creation of pressure-aware robots.
Ali Javey, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences, says: "The idea is to have a material that functions like the human skin, which means incorporating the ability to feel and touch objects."
This is an important capability as it allows the pressure exerted by hands - whether human or robotic - to be adjusted in response to the delicacy of the object being held.
Professor Javey acquired his PhD in 2005 after studying chemistry at Stanford University and joined Berkeley one year later.