Scientists build self-healing, scalable electronic skin



National University of Singapore

Jellyfish – a transparent, gelatinous drop that fills the world's oceans – does not seem to be a creature of inspiration.

But do not say that to scientists at the National University of Singapore. They were inspired by the humble transparent invertebrates to create their latest creation: a self-healing, scalable and tactile electronic skin that could be used to develop virtual robots and various human-machine communication interfaces.

"We wondered how we could make an artificial material that could mimic the water-resistant nature of jellyfish while still being sensitive to touch," said Benjamin Tee, principal investigator of the study, in a statement. Press release.

The details of Tee's new creation were published in Nature Electronics on February 15th. "Gel-like, water-based, expandable and self-healing electronic skin" is nicknamed GLASSES for short.

By mixing an elastic plastic with a fluorine-rich ionic liquid in a gel, Tee and her research team created a transparent skin that can "cure itself" and operate in humid environments , which previous gels – such as hydrogels used in tissue engineering – could not do.

"What sets our material apart is that it can retain its shape both in a wet and dry environment.It works well in seawater and even in acid or alkaline environments" said Tee.

If the skin is cut or torn, the team has demonstrated that it can actively regain its electrical conductivity in minutes and sew in a few days. I bet it would make jellyfish jealous.

And the material is also conductive, which means that it can react to touch, stretch and tension. These forces alter the electrical properties of the skin and, by measuring these changes, the skin could become a viable means of creating various sensors that would react to the touch.

Play a snake game on the glasses

National University of Singapore

The researchers suggest that this could facilitate new methods of interacting with soft robots, an emerging field of robotics that consists of building robots from more malleable and flexible materials than solid metals. those used in Boston Dynamics twerking robo-dog Spot. The researchers showed the touch sensitivity of GLASSES with a simple game of the classic mobile game Snake.

And self-healing skin can also have positive effects on the environment, eliminating the need to replace it. Yes we do not recycle our electronicswe reject them – with more than 40 million tonnes of electronic waste produced each year. Tee sees an opportunity.

"We are hoping to create a future in which electronics made from intelligent materials can perform automatic repairs to reduce the amount of electronic waste worldwide," he said.

Originally published at 8:24 pm. PT

Update 21:16 PT: Corrected name of the National University of Singapore

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