Electronic skin, a new creation by researchers at CU Boulder, mimics the properties and functions of human skin.The smart folks over at the University of Colorado Boulder have developed a self-healing, recyclable electronic skin that could be used not only in prosthetics and robotics down the road, but in biomedical devices as well. Before we dive in, there's a bunch of technical, scientific words and phrases used to describe the properties of the electronic skin, many of which I had trouble understanding. So hopefully you have a better grasp of what the researchers are explaining than I did ... Also called e-skin, electronic skin is very similar to human skin, at least in terms of function and mechanics. Made from a thin, translucent material, it has electronic sensors placed within its form. This is done to measure various senses like pressure, humidity, and temperature, among others. "What is unique here is that the chemical bonding of polyimine we use allows the e-skin to be both self-healing and fully recyclable at room temperature," said Jianliang Xiao, an assistant professor in CU's Department of Mechanical Engineering. "Given the millions of tons of electronic waste generate worldwide every year, the recyclability of our e-skin makes good economic and environmental sense." The most exciting factor of the e-skin is that it's self-healing. Now it's not like in The Terminator when Arnold Schwarzenegger is able to heal himself within the span of a few seconds after receiving bullet wounds. It's not THAT advanced ... at least not yet, anyways. Instead, it's able to heal through a combination of three compounds found in ethanol. (Yeah, not sure what that entails either.)
Another cool aspect of the electronic skin is that it's malleable, being able to conform to human arms and robotic hands. Plus, with its sensors, it's able to apply the appropriate amount of heat and pressure without adding unnecessary stresses. Wei Zhang, an associate professor at the university's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, said, "Let's say you wanted a robot to take care of a baby. In that case you would integrate e-skin on the robot fingers that can feel pressure of the baby. The idea is to try and mimic biological skin with e-skin that has desired functions." If you're interested in learning more about electronic skin, check out their study published in the journal Science Advances. What do you think? Will we be seeing this new technology in full development in the near future? We'd love to hear your thoughts, so sound off in the comments below. Let's get the conversation started!