California Researchers Create Flexible, Interactive E-Skin; Lights Up When Touched


The University of California researchers have created the world's first user-interactive 'electronic skin' that reacts to touch and pressure by instantly lighting up.

The e-skin contains a pressure-sensitive circuit array that is slim, elastic and radiant. When the flexible skin is touched, bent or pressed, built-in LEDs glow. The stronger the touch, the brighter the light it emits.

The researchers claim that the bendy e-skin could be used to restore feeling for people with prosthetic limbs, in smartphone displays, car dashboards, smart watches, interactive wall papers, or can be even used in robots to give them a lifelike skin and a finer sense of touch. It can be easily laminated to any surface.

The skin was created by Associate Professor Ali Javey and his team.

 "We are not just making devices; we are building systems. With the interactive e-skin, we have demonstrated an elegant system on plastic that can be wrapped around different objects to enable a new form of human-machine interfacing," said Javey, a professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences at the Berkeley campus of the university.

The stretchy e-skin is built using a thin layer of polymer which is melted onto the top of a strip of silicon. Once the plastic hardened, flexible electronic circuits were layered onto the skin. The plastic was then peeled from the silicon base to develop the flexible film with the sensors and semiconductors inside.

"The electronic components are all vertically integrated, which is a fairly sophisticated system to put onto a relatively cheap piece of plastic," said Javey. "What makes this technology potentially easy to commercialize is that the process meshes well with existing semiconductor machinery."

The experimental models of the e-skin measures 16 by 16 pixels and each pixel features a pressure sensor, a transistor and a pixel-sized organic LED.

"I could also imagine an e-skin bandage applied to an arm as a health monitor that continuously checks blood pressure and pulse rates," said Chuan Wang, co-lead author.

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