It is one of the most fascinating organs of all: the skin. It covers almost the entire body. Its cells are among the most versatile in the entire body. It protects us from all factors outside the body, such as bacteria, viruses or various substances. It could develop in unthinkable ways: a group of scientists designed the electronic skin of the future. It would recognize vibrations that are imperceptible to humans. You could even share and save the recorded data via WiFi.
A second skin
A replacement that can satisfactorily perform the functions of the skin has long been sought. A team of researchers from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia went one step further. It’s a material that mimics human skin in terms of resistance, elasticity, and even sensitivity. It’s called e-skin. It will be part of the new generation prosthetics.
“It mimics the many natural functions of human skin, such as sensing temperature and touch.” Says the professor of the University of Science and Technology, King Abdullah -KAIST-, Yichen Cai. “The recent advent of 2D sensors has accelerated efforts to incorporate mechanically strong and atomically thin materials into synthetic leather.”
With a hydrogel reinforced with silica nanoparticles, they created the electronic skin of the future. All of this is connected by highly conductive nanowires.
Hydrogels contain more than 70% water. Very compatible with human skin tissue, ”explains Shen. The hydrogel was pre-stretched in all directions by applying a layer of nanowires. They remained intact even when the material was stretched 28 times its original size.
Durable and advanced
The electronic skin prototype could detect objects 20 centimeters away. It responded to stimuli in less than a tenth of a second. And when it was used as a pressure sensor, it could distinguish the handwriting on it. “It’s an amazing feat for an electronic skin. Maintains toughness after repeated use. And it mimics the elasticity and quick recovery of human skin, “Shen says.
Such electronic skins could monitor a wide variety of biological information. Blood pressure, limb and joint movements … This data can be shared and stored in the cloud via WiFi. Other new applications are on the horizon, according to Cai. “We see a future for this technology beyond biology,” says the researcher. ‘It could soon be expandable to even monitor the structural condition of inanimate objects. Like furniture and planes, ”he concludes.