Human skin is an amazing barrier that is able to sense pressure and heal itself. Now, researchers at Stanford University’s Department of Electrical Engineering have created a material that mimics skin in two incredible ways: it can sense pressure and it can heal cuts or tears. While previous attempts at producing synthetic skins have yielded materials that can only heal themselves under high heat or just one time, this latest material, like skin, can heal at room temperature an unlimited number of times. Additionally, the material can conduct electricity, an essential component lacking in previous synthetic skin materials.
By adding nickel to a plastic polymer, the researchers created a material that can conduct the electricity, allowing it to transmit information about subtle changes in its surface. Professor Zhenan Bao points out that the material can sense the pressure from a handshake or a change in position, making it an attractive option for prosthetic limbs.The material is able to restore 75 percent of its strength and conductivity within a few seconds and is back to full strength in about 30 minutes. In addition, the material can withstand repeated damage to the same area without losing its self-healing properties.
Researchers see possible uses for this material, beyond prosthetics, in self-healing phone cases or self-healing electrical wires for use in difficult-to-reach places like inside vehicle or building walls. The material is not ready for commercial production yet, however, and researchers intend to tinker with the formula to create a material that is able to stretch and be more transparent, along with improving healing and conductivity.
via ABC News