A product that imitates human skin in terms of strength, stretchability, and sensitivity can apparently also be used to collect biological data in real-time. This electronic skin or e-skin might play a crucial role in next-generation prosthetics, personalised medicine, soft robotics, and artificial intelligence.
Yichen Cai, KAUST postdoc said: “The ideal e-skin will mimic the many natural functions of human skin, such as sensing temperature and touch, accurately and in real-time”.
However, he has also said that it can be a task to make suitably flexible electronics that can perform such delicate tasks. Another aspect that needs to be taken into account is that it needs to be durable and should be able to endure bumps and scrapes of everyday life.
As reported by Eurekalert, the majority of these e-skins are made up of layering an active nano-material.
It has a stretchy surface that attaches to human skin. Emphasising on that aspect, Yichen Cai, “The landscape of skin electronics keeps shifting at a spectacular pace. The emergence of 2D sensors has accelerated efforts to integrate these atomically thin, mechanically strong materials into functional, durable artificial skins”.
Currently, Yichen Cai and Jie Shen and their team have come up with an e-skin using a hydrogel reinforced with silica nanoparticles. This type of e-skin is not only strong but is also the stretchy substrate. It also comprises of a 2D titanium carbide MXene as the sensing layer. All of this is bound together with highly conductive nanowires.
Elaborating upon the product and the material used in it, Jie Shen, “Hydrogels are more than 70 per cent water, making them very compatible with human skin tissues. It is a striking achievement for an e-skin to maintain toughness after repeated use”.
The team’s prototype e-skin can sense objects from 20 centimetres away. It can also respond to stimuli in less than one-tenth of a second.