KAUST scientists have developed a durable “electronic skin” that can mimic the natural functions of human skin, such as temperature and touch perception.
A material that mimics human skin in strength, extensibility and sensitivity could be used to collect biological data in real time. Electronic skin or e-skin can play an important role in next-generation prosthetics, adapted to medicine, soft robotics, and artificial intelligence.
The team, led by Caio and colleague Jie Shen, has now created a durable e-skin using a hydrogel reinforced with silicon nanoparticles as a strong and flexible substrate and 2-D titanium carbide MXene as a sensing layer associated with highly conductive nanowires. The durable e-skin developed by KAUST using this hydrogel creates a strong and supple foundation.
“Hydrogel accounts for more than 70 percent of water, making it highly compatible with human skin tissues,” Shen explains. By prestressing the hydrogel in all directions, applying a layer of nanowires, and then carefully monitoring its release, the scientists created conductive pathways to the sensor layer that remained intact even when the material was stretched to 28 times its original size.
Their e-skin prototype was able to detect objects from a distance of 20 centimeters, respond to stimuli in less than a tenth of a second, and when used as a pressure transducer, was able to separate the handwriting written on it. After 5000 deformations, it continued to work well and recovered in about a quarter of a second each time. “For e-skin, maintaining elasticity1 after repeated use is a remarkable success,” says Shen, and continues, “which mimics the elasticity and rapid regeneration of human skin.”