Contact evolution of dry and hydrated fingertips at initial touch

Gokhan Serhat*, Yasemin Vardar, Katherine J. Kuchenbecker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
112 Downloads (Pure)


Pressing the fingertips into surfaces causes skin deformations that enable humans to grip objects and sense their physical properties. This process involves intricate finger geometry, non-uniform tissue properties, and moisture, complicating the underlying contact mechanics. Here we explore the initial contact evolution of dry and hydrated fingers to isolate the roles of governing physical factors. Two participants gradually pressed an index finger on a glass surface under three moisture conditions: dry, water-hydrated, and glycerin-hydrated. Gross and real contact area were optically measured over time, revealing that glycerin hydration produced strikingly higher real contact area, while gross contact area was similar for all conditions. To elucidate the causes for this phenomenon, we investigated the combined effects of tissue elasticity, skin-surface friction, and fingerprint ridges on contact area using simulation. Our analyses show the dominant influence of elastic modulus over friction and an unusual contact phenomenon, which we call friction-induced hinging.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0269722
Number of pages17
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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