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Self-healable, malleable, recyclable electronic skin
February 24, 2018, 1:12 pm

Researchers at the University of Colorado in the US have developed a new type of malleable, self-healing and fully recyclable ‘electronic skin’ that has applications ranging from prosthetic development, to better biomedical devices and robotics.

A number of different types and sizes of wearable ‘electronic skins’ also known as ‘e-skin’ are being developed in labs around the world as researchers recognize their value in diverse medical, scientific and engineering fields. What differentiates the new product is that it has sensors embedded to measure ambient pressure, temperature, humidity and air flow, as well as the presence of a dynamic network polymer called polyimine, which has been laced with silver nanoparticles to provide better mechanical strength, chemical stability and electrical conductivity.

Like other e-skins, the thin translucent material can mimic the function and mechanical properties of human skin, but the chemical bonding of polyimine allows the new e-skin to be both self-healing and fully recyclable at room temperature. Another benefit of the new e-skin is that it can be easily conformed to curved surfaces like human arms and robotic hands by applying moderate heat and pressure to it without introducing excessive stresses. The researchers said their aim was to try and mimic biological skin with e-skin that has desired functions.

To recycle the skin, the device is soaked into a recycling solution, which makes the polyimine degrade into its constituent parts while the embedded silver nanoparticles sink to the bottom of the solution. Both the recycled solution and nanoparticles can then be used to make new, functional e-skin.

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