Researchers develop new malleable e-skin self-healable, recyclable

Source: Xinhua| 2018-02-10 08:18:27|Editor: Zhou Xin
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LOS ANGELES, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- Researchers have developed a novel type of malleable, self-healing and fully recyclable "electronic skin", that has applications ranging from robotics and prosthetic development to better biomedical devices.

The new study was published on Friday in the journal Science Advances.

Electronic skin, known as e-skin, is a thin, translucent material that can mimic the function and mechanical properties of human skin.

The new e-skin has sensors embedded to measure pressure, temperature, humidity and air flow, according to the researchers. It has several distinctive properties, including a new type of covalently bonded dynamic network polymer that has been laced with silver nanoparticles to provide better mechanical strength, chemical stability and electrical conductivity.

There are 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.

"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," assistant Professor Jianliang Xiao, who is leading the research effort with CU Boulder chemistry and biochemistry associate professor Wei Zhang, was quoted as saying in a news release. "Given the millions of tons of electronic waste generated worldwide every year, the recyclability of our e-skin makes good economic and environmental sense."

The new e-skin is also can be easily conformed to curved surfaces like human arms and robotic hands. To recycle the skin, the device is soaked into recycling solution, making the polymers degrade into oligomers and monomers that are soluble in ethanol.

"The recycled solution and nanoparticles can then be used to make new, functional e-skin," said Xiao.