"The ability to replicate the sense of touch and integrate it into various technologies opens up new possibilities for human-machine interaction and advanced sensory experiences," said Dr. Akhilesh Gaharwar, professor and director of research for the Department of Biomedical Engineering. "It can potentially revolutionize industries and improve the quality of life for individuals with disabilities."
Future uses for the E-skin are vast, including wearable health devices that continuously monitor vital signs like motion, temperature, heart rate and blood pressure, providing feedback to users and helping them improve their motor skills and coordination.
"The inspiration behind developing E-skin is rooted in the desire to create more advanced and versatile interfaces between technology, the human body and the environment," Gaharwar said. "The most exciting aspect of this research is its potential applications in robotics, prosthetics, wearable technology, sports and fitness, security systems and entertainment devices."
Creating E-skin involves challenges with developing durable materials that can simultaneously mimic the flexibility of human skin, contain bioelectrical sensing capabilities and employ fabrication techniques suitable for wearable or implantable devices.
In the past, the stiffness of these systems was too high for our body tissues, preventing signal transduction and creating mechanical mismatch at the biotic-abiotic interface
Using nanoengineered hydrogels addresses some of the challenging aspects of E-skin development during 3D printing due to hydrogels' ability to decrease viscosity under shear stress during E-skin creation, allowing for easier handling and manipulation. The team said this feature facilitates the construction of complex 2D and 3D electronic structures, an essential aspect of replicating the multifaceted nature of human skin.