Jellyfish-inspired electronic skin glows when hurt

An electronic skin that can mimic the full range of biological skin's sensitivity has great potential to transform prosthetics and robotics.

PTI| Updated: Nov 02, 2017, 13:39 PM IST
Jellyfish-inspired electronic skin glows when hurt

Beijing: Scientists have developed a flexible electronic skin - inspired by glowing deep-sea jellyfish - that lights up when it experiences pressures high enough to cause damage.

An electronic skin that can mimic the full range of biological skin's sensitivity has great potential to transform prosthetics and robotics.

They are very sensitive, but only within a narrow range of weak pressures. They can detect the slightest touch or breeze.

However, under high pressures that could cause damage, the electronic skins' sensitivity fades. The sensors do not respond effectively to a harmful blow.

For the research, published in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, scientists from the Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China turned to the Atolla jellyfish for inspiration.

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-dimethysiloxane (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.

The approach more closely copies the wide range of pressures the human skin can feel.