Electronic skin becomes wireless, without chips and batteries - Technologies

Born less than 20 years ago for robots, the electronic skin today it evolves and becomes wirelesspaving the way for a new generation of wearable technologies useful for the salute and it sport. The result, published in the journal Science, is due to researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who have developed an 'e-skin' capable of detecting and transmitting signals relating to pulsation, sweating ed exposure to ultraviolet raysi without using a Bluetooth connection chip or bulky batteries.

The new electronic skin is one semiconductor flexible film that adheres to the skin like a plaster. The 'heart' of the sensor is an ultra-thin layer of gallium nitride, a material known for its piezoelectric properties (it can produce an electrical signal in response to a mechanical deformation and, conversely, it can vibrate mechanically in response to an electrical impulse). Specifically, the researchers produced samples of pure gallium nitride and paired them with one conductive layer of gold to enhance the electrical input and output signals. They therefore proved that the device is sensitive enough for vibrate in response to heartbeat and you have salts present in sweat: the vibration of the material then generates electrical signals that can be read by a nearby receiver. This 'e-skin' "can be applied to the body as a bandage and, coupled with a wireless player on your smartphoneallows you to monitor heart rate, sweating and other biological signals, "notes engineer Jeehwan Kim of MIT.

This scenario probably still looked like science fiction in the 1980s, when it started early research on electronic skin, and perhaps even in the early 2000s, when the prototypes took shape. It dates back to 2005 the first electronic skin perfectly flexible and able to perceive pressure and temperature: developed at the University of Tokyo, it had a double network of sensors to give the automata a perception similar to touch. As soon as three years laterat the University of Illinois, an e-skin has been developed adhesive which, applied to the skin like a tattoo, was able to restore tactile sensations to those who had lost them or to monitor parameters such as those relating to the functioning of the heart. Driven by a growing environmental awareness, in 2018 even the first fully recyclable electronic skin has arrived, capable of repair itself like that of Terminator and elastic like the human one.

Shortly after it was the turn of the e-skin able to feel the heat, the cold and the humidity: a turning point for the touch of the robots but also for the prosthetic limbs. In 2020, in the laboratories of Rmit University in Melbourne, the first electronic skin was created that senses pain by reacting almost instantly, just like our natural skin does: useful for robots and prostheses, it is a candidate to become a hitech alternative to transplant skin grafts. Finally, in 2021 the MIT researchers developed the first e-skin with poresable to better adhere to the human body for the detection of parameters even when you sweat during sports.