Posted on Mar 04, 2018, 2 a.m.
Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder have developed a malleable, fully recyclable, self healing electronic skin that holds promise in applications ranging from prosthetics and robotic development to advance biomedical devices, as published in Science Advances.
Functions and mechanical properties of human skin are mimicked by e-skin which is a thin translucent material, of which a variety of different sizes and wearable types of are being developed in labs worldwide as researchers recognize the value in diverse scientific, medical, and engineering fields.
This e-skin has sensors embedded within it that will measure temperature, air flow, humidity, and pressure. The e-skin has several distinctive properties including a covalently bonded dynamic network polymer that is laced with silver nanoparticles to provide improved mechanical strength, electrical conductivity, and chemical stability that allows the e-skin to be both self healing and fully recyclable at room temperature.
E-skin is not as dramatic as in movies where the skin rehealing is performed in seconds, but healing of cut or broken e-skin including sensors is done by using a mixture of 3 commercially available compounds in ethanol, and can easily be conformed to curved surfaces such as robotic hands and human arms by applying moderate heat and pressure to it without introducing excessive stresses.
Recycling e-skin is done by soaking the device into a recycling solution making the polymers degrade into oligomers and monomers that are soluble in ethanol, with the silver nanoparticles sinking to the bottom, and the recycled parts and solution being able to be used to make new e-skin.
Materials provided by University of Colorado at Boulder.
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Zhanan Zou, Chengpu Zhu, Yan Li, Xingfeng Lei, Wei Zhang, and Jianliang Xiao. Rehealable, fully recyclable, and malleable electronic skin enabled by dynamic covalent thermoset nanocomposite. Science Advances, 2018; DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaq0508