Since the birth of electronics man has fantasized about unifying them with the human body. Recently, Scientists at the Technion have been doing exactly that by advancing technology to create electronic artificial skin (e-skin).
While current e-skin can only detect touch, their technology boasts the ability to detect three kinds of data simultaneously; touch, temperature, and humidity. The addition of these two key dimensions of sensation allows their e-skin to more closely represent the abilities and functionality of human skin. In addition the new e-skin also has the ability to be more sensitive to touch than existing technologies by a factor of 10.
Another challenge posed to electronic skin addressed by the Technion-team is its ability to function at low voltage. This minimizes consumption of precious battery power, an attribute essential for wearable electronic solutions.
In addition to being able to function at low voltage, their product is also increasingly thin. The thinness of their sensors allows greater flexibility which is fundamental to the increased sensitivity of their sensors. The sensors measuring at 5-8 nanoparticles in thickness are comprised of a gold particle encased in a meshwork of unifying ligands. These sit on a substrate layer, which is in this case a type of plastic (PET – flexible polyethylene terephthalate), that when bent allows the gold particles to change in their distance from one another and thus change the level of conductivity between them.
In this way, the physical stimulus which warps the shape of the plastic is converted into an electronic measure of pressure. Thus, by having an extremely thin apparatus the technology is able to detect very subtle changes in the contour of the sensor and delivers superior detection.
While the team is focusing on the application of this technology to artificial skin, one can see how it could be applied to many other fields in which detecting minute changes in pressure are essential.