CU Boulder researchers have developed an electronic skin that is malleable, self-healable and recyclable. With growing consciousness among people regarding health, many fitness trackers and gadgets have become available which are packed with sensors that monitor various parameters associated with health. However, these wearable gadgets often function in association with smartphones or other devices. But recently, we have reported the development of HOVR Smart running shoes, where you can track your running stats without carrying any extra devices.
But this new sensor packed, recyclable e-skin might revolutionize the field of wearables. The next generation of fitness and health gadgets might include the flexible wearables and tattoos. A number of e-skins are developed across various labs, and when no longer needed, they are dumped as e-waste. It is where the new e-skin developed by the CU Boulder researchers stands out where it can be easily recyclable. However, there will be a slight reduction in the performance of the recyclable e-skin compared to the new one.
How is this new e-skin built?
The e-skin contains covalently bonded network polymer Polyimine that has been interlinked with silver nanoparticles. So this type of arrangement provides better mechanical strength, chemical stability, and electrical conductivity. The chemical bonding of polyimine makes the e-skin to be self-healing and recyclable at room temperature. The sensors e-skin can accurately measure pressure, temperature, humidity, and airflow.
How is the e-skin healed and recycled?
In case of any cuts, the e-skin can be healed with the help of terephthalaldehyde, diethylenetriamine, tris(2-aminoethyl)amine and silver nanoparticles mixed in ethanol and with the application of heat pressure. At the end of its operational life, the e-skin is soaked in ethanol, wherein the polymers get degraded into oligomers and silver particles which sink to the bottom. Again the recycled solution coupled with nanoparticles can be used for making new e-skin.
The e-skin is flexible and can be easily moulded to any shape by the application of heat pressure. Say for example like the shape of any limb or even on the surfaces of a robotic hand. In the future, If we may make a robot that takes care of a baby by integrating the e-skin on its hands so that it could feel the pressure of the baby. The research study is published in the Journal of Scientific Advances.