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Electronic Skin Material Devised to Detect Multiple Senses

Hossam Haick

Hossam Haick (Technion – Israel Institute of Technology)

Chemical engineers at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology developed a flexible sensor that can simultaneously detect touch, humidity, and temperature. The team led by Technion’s Hossam Haick published its findings in the June issue of the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces (paid subscription required).

The Technion team aimed to develop a flexible electronic sensor that would require little power, measure a range of pressures, detect multiple phenomena simultaneously, and be made easily and inexpensively. The phenomena to be detected by the sensors were humidity, temperature, pressure, and presence of chemicals.

The researchers adapted gold nanoparticles, only 5 to 8 nanometers in size — 1 nanometer equals 1 billionth of a meter, surrounded by organic ligands or connector molecules. The team applied the gold nanoparticles and connectors on a layer of polyethylene terephthalate, a flexible polymer widely used for decades to make soft drink bottles.

Haick and colleagues discovered the resulting compound conducted electricity at different rates depending on the bending motion of the material. Bending the material, they discovered, brought the gold particles closer together, which increased the measurable speed the current.

This property makes it possible to detect a wide range of pressures. The thickness of the material can also determine the sensitivity of the sensor. The flexibility of the sensor would enable it to be applied to many kinds of surfaces. The researchers envision the material providing sensory experiences to prosthetic limbs, to include touch, humidity, and temperature.

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