Today’s Solutions: June 27, 2022

Nature has done an excellent job at creating the human’s largest sensory organ, the skin, which allows us to feel heat, pressure, and humidity. However, a research lab at the Institute of Solid State Physics in TU Graz has invented a smart skin that can do all this and more, going above and beyond human skin capabilities.

The novel technology is fitted with 2,000 individual sensors per square millimeter, creating a material even more sensitive than a fingertip, with an increased perception resolution of a thousand times. This means the material can impressively register objects that are too small for human skin to pick up, such as microorganisms.

What is the e-skin made of?

The sensors are composed of a unique combination of a smart polymer hydrogel and piezoelectric zinc oxide. “The hydrogel can absorb water and thus expands upon changes in humidity and temperature. In doing so, it exerts pressure on the piezoelectric zinc oxide, which responds to this and all other mechanical stresses with an electrical signal,” explains Anna Maria Coclite, lead author of the study.

What can the e-skin be used for?

This innovation is useful for numerous applications. One is in health care, where the skin could be used as a sensor to detect microorganisms and report them accordingly. Another is for prosthetics, where the material could give the wearer information about weather or humidity. Robots could also be improved by technology, by allowing them to perceive environments more sensitively.

The team is looking to optimize their skin even further by extending the temperature range that the material can react to and improving its flexibility.

Source study: Advanced Materials Technologies Smart Core-Shell Nanostructures for Force, Humidity, and Temperature Multi-Stimuli Responsiveness

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