Researchers have developed a flexible electronic skin, inspired by glowing deep-sea jellyfish, that lights up when it experiences pressures high enough to cause damage.
Artificial skin stands to have a variety uses, with potential applications in everything from robots to prosthetics.They are very sensitive, but only within a narrow range of weak pressures. They can detect the slightest touch or breeze.
Current technologies are very sensitive, but only within a narrow range of weak pressures. Under high pressures that could cause damage, the electronic skins’ sensitivity fades.
To address this shortcoming, Bin Hu and colleagues at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology turned to the Atolla jellyfish for inspiration. The Atolla jellyfish can sense pressure in its surroundings and emits bright flashes of light when attacked.
This bioluminescent, deep-sea creature can feel changes in environmental pressure and flashes dramatically when it senses danger.
Building on the idea of a visual warning in response to a physical threat, the researchers combined electric and optical systems in a novel electronic skin to detect both slight and high-force pressures.
They embedded two layers of stretchy poly-dimethylsiloxane (PDMS) film with silver nanowires. These layers produce an electrical signal in response to slight pressures, such as those created by a breeze or contact with a leaf.
Sandwiched between the silver nanowire electrodes is a PDMS layer embedded with phosphors. This layer kicks in and glows with growing intensity as the physical force increases.
Developed electronic skins based on single response mode for pressure sensing suffer from a rapid decrease in sensitivity with the increase of pressure.
This capability makes this particular electronic skin a promising potential component to human-machine interfaces and intelligent robots.
The approach more closely copies the wide range of pressures the human skin can feel. The work was recently published in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.