Skin — the body’s largest organ — is constantly monitoring for pain. It can trigger pain-avoiding actions automatically through reflexes, for example when we touch something dangerously hot.

Now, researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, have created an artificial skin that mimics this mechanism and reacts to pain stimuli.

Made of silicone rubber, it has the texture of real skin and is also “very similar to skin in its mechanical properties,” says Madhu Bhaskaran, an engineering professor at RMIT University and the project’s lead researcher.

It could lead to groundbreaking innovations in prosthetics and robotics.