Scientists have invented a so-called electronic skin that can heal itself and allow amputees to feel touch and temperature on their prosthetic limbs.
According to Science Advances, scientists from University of Colorado Boulder created the electronic skin, or e-skin, a thin semi-transparent thermoset-based material that acts like a real skin that can sense temperature, pressuse, humidity and air flow.
The research should help advance the prosthetics industry. "By doping the dynamic covalent thermoset with conductive silver nanoparticles, we demonstrate a robust, yet rehealable, fully recyclable and malleable e-skin," the abstract said.
The e-skin could be recycled at room temperature, a rare feat for e-skins. After rehealing and recycling, the e-skin should be able to regain its original mechanical and electrical properties.
Because it is malleable, the e-skin efficiently conforms to "complex, curved surfaces" without getting interfacial stresses.
"These properties of the e-skin yield an economical and eco-friendly technology that can find broad applications in robotics, prosthetics, health care, and human-computer interface," the abstract added.
Boulder mechanical engineer Jianliang Xiao, who led the study, told Newsweek that the e-skin would have broad applications and would "enable sensation of otherwise passive systems."
Its key feature is the ability to sense pressure, the highlight of improving prosthetic limbs. Xiao explained that this should help amputees know how much pressure to put on the objects they are holding, and not accidentally break them from too much pressure.
Boulder chemistry professor Wei Zhang, who co-authored the study, added the e-skin would be able to mimic the preventive functions of a real skin, as it could prevent users from getting burned and other ways it could get hurt.
This feature should also be very useful for robots in the future. With the sense of touch and pressure, futuristic robots should know the amount of pressure to give when holding babies or handling breakable objects.