Materials that mimic the strength, stretchability and sensitivity of human skin can be used to collect biological data in real time. Electronic skin or electronic skin may play an important role in the next generation of artificial limbs, personalized medicine, soft robotics and artificial intelligence.

KAUST postdoctoral fellow Cai Yichen said: “The ideal electronic skin will mimic many natural functions of human skin, such as accurately sensing temperature and touch in real time.” However, making suitable flexible electronic devices to perform such delicate tasks while being able to endure The bumps and scratches of daily life are challenging, so every material involved must be carefully designed.

Most electronic skins are made by laying a layer of active nanomaterials (sensors) on an elastic surface attached to human skin. However, the connection between these layers is usually too weak, which reduces the durability and sensitivity of the material. Or, if the strength is too high, flexibility will be limited, which is more likely to cause circuit breakage and fracture.

Cai said: “The landscape of skin electronics is constantly changing at an alarming rate.” “The advent of two-dimensional sensors has accelerated efforts to integrate these atomically thin, mechanically strong materials into functional, durable artificial skin.”

The team led by Cai and colleague Shen Shen now uses a hydrogel reinforced with silica nanoparticles as a strong and flexible substrate, and 2D titanium carbide MXene as the sensing layer, combined with highly conductive nanowires Together, a durable electronic skin is created.

Shen said: “The water in the hydrogel exceeds 70%, making it very compatible with human skin tissue.” By pre-stretching the hydrogel in all directions, applying a layer of nanowires, and then carefully controlling its release, The researchers created a conductive path to the sensor layer, which remains intact even when the material is stretched to 28 times its original size.

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Their prototype electronic skin can sense objects up to 20 centimeters away, respond to stimuli in less than a tenth of a second, and when used as a pressure sensor, can distinguish handwriting written on it. After 5,000 deformations, it can still work normally, recovering for about a quarter of a second each time. Shen said: “Electronic skin maintains toughness after repeated use is an amazing achievement. It mimics the elasticity and rapid recovery ability of human skin.”

Such an electronic skin can monitor a series of biological information, such as changes in blood pressure, and can detect blood pressure from the vibration of the artery to the movement of the limbs and joints. This data can then be shared via Wi-Fi and stored in the cloud.

The team leader, Vincent Tung, added: “Another obstacle to the widespread use of electronic skin is the expansion of the scale of high-resolution sensors.” “However, laser-assisted additive manufacturing offers new hope.”

Cai added: “We think this technology will surpass biology.” “The retractable sensor comes with one day that can monitor the structural health of inanimate objects (such as furniture and airplanes).”

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