Researchers have discovered a material that is bendable, twistable, soft and stretchable. It is in the realm of wearable electronics. This can potentially change the way the electronics are worn.
At the University of Houston, the researchers have developed a mechanism that can be used for producing stretchable electronic components. Even after being stretched by almost 50% of the original state, the mechanism can still retain its functionality. This breakthrough technology in the realm of wearable electronics is giving the feel of artificial skin which would further allow the robot to differentiate between cold and hot while also serving to biomedical devices.
The stretchable composite semiconductor was made by using polydimethylsiloxane, a silicon-based polymer, along with some tiny nanowires for making a solution. The solution further hardened up to form a material that used nanowires for transporting the electric current.
BENEFITS OF THE MECHANISM
This mechanism is still at the development stage. But scientists have a belief that if it is fully established, it can help the prosthetic limbs to get the sense of ‘feel’ again and help the medical science in making more progress.
The entire findings of the research work done by Cunjian Yu with his team are published in the journal Science Advances. Cunjian Yu is the assistant professor at the University of Houston in the field of mechanical engineering. He claims that the main benefit of using the mechanism owes to its large strain tolerance level, scalable manufacturing, simple fabrication, high-density integration along with low cost.
The experiment was demonstrated where the electronic skin was put on a robotic hand to show how it could sense the difference of hot and cold temperatures. The artificial skin was fully capable of interpreting the computerised signals sent to the hand and then processes it for producing the American Sign Language symbols.
The gestures can be translated by the robot into easily readable letters for a normal person to understand.
Most of the semiconductors are non-stretchable which makes this discovery even more remarkable. Without the aid of any special mechanical structure, this is the first semiconductor in a rubber format to allow stretchability.
The material can be used in many other ways apart from being used as an artificial skin. It can help in developing other wearable electronics, surgical gloves, smoothen the human and machine interface, develop better health monitors and medical implants.