Modeling the thermal responses of the skin surface during hand-object interactions

Hsin Ni Ho, Lynette A. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)


The objective of this research is to analyze and model the decreases in skin temperature when the hand makes contact with an object at room temperature so that thermal feedback can be incorporated into haptic displays. A thermal model is proposed that predicts the thermal responses of the skin and object surface as well as the heat flux exchanged during hand-object interactions. The model was evaluated by comparing the theoretical predictions of temperature changes to those experimentally measured using an infrared thermal measurement system. The thermal measurement system was designed to overcome the limitations imposed by contact thermal sensors, and was able to measure skin temperature during contact, together with the contact area and contact force. The experimental results indicated that over the pressure range of 0.73-10.98 kPa, changes in skin temperature were well localized to the contact area and were affected by contact pressure. The pressure in turn influenced both thermal contact resistance and blood flow. Over the range of contact forces typically used in manual exploration, blood perfusion and metabolic heat generation do not appear to have a significant effect on the skin's thermal responses. The theoretical predictions and the measured data were consistent in characterizing the time course and amplitude of the skin temperature change during contact with differences typically being less than 1°C between the two for pressures greater than 4 kPa. These findings indicate that the proposed thermal model is able to characterize and predict the skin temperature responses during hand-object interactions and could be used in a thermal display that simulates the properties of different materials.

Original languageEnglish
Article number021005
JournalJournal of Biomechanical Engineering
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Physiology (medical)


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