New malleable ‘electronic skin’ self-healable, recyclable by Tech Xplore
28 February 2018
University of Colorado Boulder researchers have developed a new type of malleable, self-healing and fully recyclable “electronic skin” that has applications ranging from robotics and prosthetic development to better biomedical devices.
Electronic skin, known as e-skin, is a thin, translucent material that can mimic the function and mechanical properties of human skin. A number of different types and sizes of wearable e-skins are now being developed in labs around the world as researchers recognize their value in diverse medical, scientific and engineering fields.
The new CU Boulder e-skin has sensors embedded to measure pressure, temperature, humidity and air flow, said Assistant Professor Jianliang Xiao, who is leading the research effort with CU Boulder chemistry and biochemistry Associate Professor Wei Zhang. It has several distinctive properties, including a novel type of covalently bonded dynamic network polymer, known as polyimine that has been laced with silver nanoparticles to provide better mechanical strength, chemical stability and electrical conductivity.
“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 Xiao. “Given the millions of tons of electronic waste generated worldwide every year, the recyclability of our e-skin makes good economic and environmental sense.”