Recyclable and self-healing electronic or e-skin can have major applications in electronics and prosthetics or smart textiles.
The study was published in Science Advances journal in February, 2018. Team of researchers from the University of Colorado Bould have developed a malleable electronic skin enabled by dynamic covalent thermoset nanocomposite. The e-skin is developed from polymer and silver nanoparticles, which help it conform to intricate, curved spaces such as fingers or toes.
Furthermore, whenever e-skin is damaged it recreates the chemical bonds between the two separated sides, restoring the matrix. If it is left unused, it can be placed in a solution that liquefies the material, thereby allowing it to be recycled into a brand new e-skin. The e-skin can mimics the functions and mechanical properties of human skin. It can measure pressure, temperature, and vibration. The main aim of the study is to reduce electronic waste, which is created by disposal of damaged or non-functional electronic devices. It has wide range of applications in prosthetics and biomedicine. For instance, prosthetic arm or leg wrapped in the electronic skin can respond to temperature and pressure changes.
“This particular device won’t produce any waste,” said study co-author Jianliang Xiao, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at University of Colorado Boulder. “We want to make electronics to be environmentally friendly.” However, it not as flexible as human skin and not easily reproducible. Researcher are working on developing scaling solution for easy manufacturing. “We are facing pollution issues every day,” Xiao noted. “It’s important to preserve our environment and make sure that nature can be very safe for ourselves and for our kids.”