Frontiers in Neuroscience (Sep 2017)

Nanowire FET Based Neural Element for Robotic Tactile Sensing Skin

  • William Taube Navaraj,
  • Carlos García Núñez,
  • Dhayalan Shakthivel,
  • Vincenzo Vinciguerra,
  • Fabrice Labeau,
  • Duncan H. Gregory,
  • Ravinder Dahiya

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 11


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This paper presents novel Neural Nanowire Field Effect Transistors (υ-NWFETs) based hardware-implementable neural network (HNN) approach for tactile data processing in electronic skin (e-skin). The viability of Si nanowires (NWs) as the active material for υ-NWFETs in HNN is explored through modeling and demonstrated by fabricating the first device. Using υ-NWFETs to realize HNNs is an interesting approach as by printing NWs on large area flexible substrates it will be possible to develop a bendable tactile skin with distributed neural elements (for local data processing, as in biological skin) in the backplane. The modeling and simulation of υ-NWFET based devices show that the overlapping areas between individual gates and the floating gate determines the initial synaptic weights of the neural network - thus validating the working of υ-NWFETs as the building block for HNN. The simulation has been further extended to υ-NWFET based circuits and neuronal computation system and this has been validated by interfacing it with a transparent tactile skin prototype (comprising of 6 × 6 ITO based capacitive tactile sensors array) integrated on the palm of a 3D printed robotic hand. In this regard, a tactile data coding system is presented to detect touch gesture and the direction of touch. Following these simulation studies, a four-gated υ-NWFET is fabricated with Pt/Ti metal stack for gates, source and drain, Ni floating gate, and Al2O3 high-k dielectric layer. The current-voltage characteristics of fabricated υ-NWFET devices confirm the dependence of turn-off voltages on the (synaptic) weight of each gate. The presented υ-NWFET approach is promising for a neuro-robotic tactile sensory system with distributed computing as well as numerous futuristic applications such as prosthetics, and electroceuticals.