March 20, 2018

Recyclable electronic skin has robotics and biomedical potential

12 February 2018, 06:06 | Winston Chapman

Researchers developed electronic skin self-healable, recyclable

Researchers develop new malleable e-skin self-healable, recyclable

A group of specialists from the University of Colorado (CU) Boulder have as of late developed a novel sort of flexible, self-recuperating and thoroughly recyclable "electronic skin".

The study regarding the advancement was published in the journal of Science Advances.

Consisting of a translucent thin band, the electronic skin (abbreviated E-skin) tries to mimic numerous human skin's properties and functionalities and can be used in a wide range of applications. It's built around a covalently bonded dynamic network polymer, known as polyimine, laced with silver nanoparticles to provide better conductivity and mechanical strength.

Researchers at University of Colorado Boulder have developed an electronic skin that can be recycled and it can also heal itself.

"What is unique here is that the chemical bonding of polyimine we use allows the e-skin to be both self-healing and fully recyclable at room temperature", said Jianliang Xiao, assistant professor at University of Colorado Boulder.

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Finally, to reuse the skin, the gear is splashed into reusing arrangement, influencing the polymers to debase into oligomers (polymers with polymerization degree typically underneath 10) and monomers (little atoms that can be combined into polymers) that are solvent in ethanol. So, if e-skin fails to operate or it is broken beyond fix then one can soak it in a solution that "liquefies it so that the materials can be re-used to create new e-skin".

Imagine indeed. The team says further research will aim to improve the mechanical and electrical properties of the e-skin, optimising the flexibility, recyclability and self-healing for a range of different applications. According to the scientists, in the future, e-skin should help robots feel pressure and temperature, and also help the amputees themselves feel it. Those are the electronic devices that we use, although they don't work the same as our natural skin does. "E-skin can basically mimic those [preventative] functions".

The electronic skin comes with pressure, humidity, airflow, and temperature and sensors and it is made of three separate compounds, which are combined and aligned with silver nanoparticles. Pressure triggered a reaction in the skin that lights up blue, green, red, and yellow LEDs; as pressure increased the lights got brighter.

The Berkley team suggested the invention could be useful in artificial skin for prosthetic limbs, attached to human skin to monitor health, and used in robotics. It's soft, but not as stretchy as human skin.

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