Self-healing e-skin to enable skin sense in robots

E-skin Japan

E-skin Japan

A few sorts and sizes of wearable e-skins are at show being delivered in labs around the globe as analysts distinguished their utilities generally going from mechanical autonomy and prosthetic improvement to better biomedical kinds of gear.

We may be one step closer to giving this essential sense of touch to machines, thanks to efforts from the University of Boulder to create a malleable "electronic skin", which is also able to self-heal if it's damaged.

The film is made of three commercially available compounds mixed together in a matrix and laced with silver nanoparticles: when the e-skin is cut in two, adding the three compounds to the "wound" allows the e-skin to heal itself by recreating chemical bonds between the two sides.

The e-skin can also be soaked in a special solution that turns it into a liquid, allowing it to be recycled into a new skin. The researchers are confident that their research will play a major role in fields like robotics and prosthetics as well as smart textiles.

All these will happen in the future but, in the meantime, E-skin is just a new invention and most probably will need some improvements.

"This particular device. won't produce any waste", says study co-author Jianliang Xiao, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at University of Colorado Boulder. Doing so provides the e-skin with better mechanical strength, chemical stability and electrical conductivity.

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With use of thin, translucent material and advanced sensors, the electronic skin can measure pressure, temperature, humidity, and air flow, working similar to human skin. This latest e-skin is special because it's recyclable - and that's an important added bonus if you consider that in the United States alone, 16 billion pounds of electronic waste was created in 2014.

Another benefit of the new CU Boulder e-skin is that it can be easily conformed to curved surfaces like human arms and robotic hands by applying moderate heat and pressure to it without introducing excessive stresses.

"In that case you would integrate e-skin on the robot fingers that can feel the pressure of the baby".

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. "The thought is to attempt and copy natural skin with e-skin that has wanted capacities".

The silver nanoparticles sink to the bottom of the solution.

In July 2013, a different UC Berkeley team announced they had created an electronic skin that lights up when touched.

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