Big Advancement in Artificial Skin Market: Researchers Developed New Artificial Skin That Can Sense Injuries

  • Analysis
  • 24-June-2021

When an individual bumps his/her elbow against a wall, they will immediately feel some pain and, in several cases, experience bruising due to that hit. However, the problem with robots and prosthetic limbs is that they don’t have similar warning signs to that of the human body, which could lead to further severe injuries. To tackle this problem, a researchers group has invented an artificial skin that has the ability to sense force through ionic signals. Moreover, it can also change colors from yellow to purple, imitating a bruise-like color. This is a big advancement for the Artificial Skin Market as now the users would be able to get a visual cue that damage has occurred to their prosthetic limbs or similar technology.
Scientists have successfully developed several types of electronic skins (e-skins) that can sense stimuli by way of electron transmission. But, electrical conductors used are not always biocompatible, which results in limited usage when they are used in some types of prosthetics. In contrast, the newly developed ionic skins (I-skins) use ions exactly as charge carriers similar to human skin. The researchers stated that the novel ionically conductive hydrogels have superior transparency, biocompatibility, and stretchability in comparison to e-skins. The goal through this research was to mainly develop an I-skin while also registering the change in electrical signals through an applied force, thus resulting in changed color exactly like human bruising.
To build the skin, the team made an ionic organohydrogel consisting of spiropyran. It is a molecule that has the ability to change color from pale yellow to bluish-purple when put under mechanical stress. During experiments, the gel demonstrated changes in color and electrical conductivity whenever it was stretched or compressed. In addition, the purple color was able to stay for around 2-5 hours before again fading back to yellow. Thereafter, the team taped the I-skin to different body parts of the individuals participating in the tests, such as the knee, hands, and fingers. They asked the participants to bend and stretch, which caused a change in the electrical signal. However, it did not show bruising that happens to human skin. After forceful and repeated hitting, pressing, and pinching the skin, it produced a color change. The tests concluded that I-skin responds similarly to human skin when it comes to electrical and optical signaling. The team stated that the whole study opens up new windows of opportunity for detecting damage in prosthetic devices and robotics.
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