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Researchers develop new malleable, recyclable e-skin

12 February 2018

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder say they've developed the first fully rehealable and recyclable electronic skin, or e-skin.

Findings obtained from the research have been disclosed in a published paper by the journal Science Advances, in which research steam has described the e-skin creation that encloses sensors capable of measuring airflow, pressure, humidity and temperature. The same concept can be applied to prosthetics: When an artificial limb is wrapped in e-skin, it can theoretically sense when something is too hot or too cold, or if more or less pressure needs to be exerted on an object.

Wei Zhang, a partner teacher in CU Boulder's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry stated, the new CU Boulder e-skin has sensors implanted to quantify weight, temperature, mugginess and wind current.

It contains a novel type of polymer called polyimine. By doping this material with silver nanoparticles, the CU Boulder team gave the material better mechanical strength, chemical stability and electrical conductivity.

E-skin will establish safer interactions between robots and humans in the future, said Jianliang Xiao. "While the new process is not almost as dramatic, the healing of a cut or broken e-skin, including the sensors, is done by using a mix of three commercially available compounds in ethanol".

Xiao added that, "For robotics, it might not be very necessary to integrate e-skins with industrial robots to provide sensing capabilities at this point".

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.

E-skin is made from a polymer and silver nanoparticles, helping it conform to complex, curved body parts like fingers or toes.

"Given the a great many huge amounts of electronic waste created worldwide consistently, the recyclability of our e-skin bodes well". So, if e-skin fails to operate or it is broken beyond fix then one can soak it in a solution that "liquefies it so that the materials can be re-used to create new e-skin". The material can be recycled easily.

Researchers develop new malleable, recyclable e-skin