Self-healable, recyclable "electronic skin" developed by University of Colorado Boulder Researchers

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There are a number of different types and sizes of wearable e-skins are now being developed in labs around the world as researchers recognize their value in diverse medical, scientific and engineering fields. The "electronic skin" is actually a thin film with advanced sensors.

The use of polyimine allows the e-skin to be fully recyclable - something its creators note is important in the context of the millions of tonnes of electronic waste generated every year.

Xiao said in a statement that, "Sensing is critical because when human beings interact with robots; we want to make sure that robots don't hurt people".

Discussing application of skin in robotics, Wei Zhang from the University of Colorado Boulder said, "Let's say you wanted a robot to take care of a baby".

All these unique properties of the e-skin are possible due to the covalent bond of the dynamic network polymer called polyimine. The polyimine has been laced with silver nanoparticles to provide better mechanical strength, chemical stability and electrical conductivity. "The idea is to try and mimic biological skin with e-skin that has desired functions".

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Xiao Jianliang, assistant professor from University of Colorado Boulder led the current study.

"While the new procedure isn't so sensational, the recuperating of a cut or broken e-skin, including the sensors, is finished by utilizing a blend of three monetarily accessible mixes in ethanol". "While the new process is not almost as dramatic, the healing of a cut or broken e-skin, including the sensors, is done by using a mix of three commercially available compounds in ethanol".

Finally, to reuse the skin, the gear is splashed into reusing arrangement, influencing the polymers to debase into oligomers (polymers with polymerization degree typically underneath 10) and monomers (little atoms that can be combined into polymers) that are solvent in ethanol.

Scientists believe the new E-skin will open some roads that otherwise would have remained blocked.

Assoc Prof Xiao and his colleagues are improving on the e-skin's texture - it is soft but not as stretchy as human skin - and also working to make the material easier to manufacture and embed in prosthetics or robots. If it's damaged beyond fix, the e-skin can be soaked in a solution that separates out the silver nanoparticles and then be fully recycled into a new, usable e-skin.