Published: Mon, February 12, 2018
Culture | By Stewart Greene

'Electronic skin' that can heal and recycle self created

'Electronic skin' that can heal and recycle self created

UC Boulder research team has used covalently bonded dynamic network polymer, known as polyimine for developing the skin.

Perhaps e-skin's most remarkable application-or its most disconcerting, depending whom you ask-is in robotics. The technology mimics the mechanical properties and functions of human skin, such as measuring temperature, pressure and vibration, Quartz reports. The efforts were conducted by the team of researchers from University of Boulder for creating an adaptable 'electronic skin' that is capable of self-healing if gets damaged.

Professor Jianliang said, "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". 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.

The e-skin is made out of thin, semi-transparent material. "At least that's one big part of the electronic skin".

Professor Zhang said: "Let's say you wanted a robot to take care of a baby". "E-skin can basically mimic those [preventative] functions".

E-skin will establish safer interactions between robots and humans in the future, said Jianliang Xiao. Thanks to the latter, the skin has strength, chemical stability and electrical conductivity.

Another remarkable property of the electronic skin is its ability to heal itself albeit the process involved is not as remarkable as that seen in the robots featured in the movie Terminator.

It can be easily conformed to surfaces like human hands or robot arms by applying moderate heat and pressure, and without the need to introduce excessive stress.

"Given the millions of tonnes of electronic waste generated worldwide every year, the recyclability of our e-skin makes good economic and environmental sense". 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". According to Newsweek, he is dreaming of a future where people will simply soak any electronic device (including laptops, cellphones, tablets) in a solution which would dissolve the materials in order for them to be used again.

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