May 26, 2019 | Updated: 10:32 PM EDT

Researchers develop a self-healing electronic skin

Mar 23, 2019 09:58 AM EDT

Jelly Fish
(Photo : Pixabay)

The National University of Singapore (NUS) researchers have developed a jellyfish-inspired electronic skin that has self-healing properties in aquatic environments.

Team leader Benjamin Tee and his colleagues from the NUS Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and members from Tsinghua University and the University of California Riverside developed the material. 

Their study was published in the February 15, 2019 issue of Nature Electronics

Asst Professor Tee has devoted his career on electronic skins and was a member of the team that developed the "first self-healing electronic skin sensors in 2012."

He has identified the main issues that self-healing electronic skins have to conquer. These include the self-healing materials being inefficient when wet and not being transparent. These create problems since they cannot be used in touchscreens and other electronic applications that require to be utilized in wet weather conditions. 

He continued, "With this idea in mind, we began to look at jellyfishes -- they are transparent and able to sense the wet environment. So, we wondered how we could make an artificial material that could mimic the water-resistant nature of jellyfishes and yet also be touch sensitive."

The team was able to develop a get that consists of a "fluorocarbon-based polymer with a fluorine-rich ionic liquid." Self-healing happens as a result of the interaction between the polymer and the ionic liquid through highly reversible ion-dipole interactions. 

Asst Prof Tee emphasized the benefits of this set-up. He said, "Most conductive polymer gels such as hydrogels would swell when submerged in water or dry out over time in air. What makes our material different is that it can retain its shape in both wet and dry surroundings. It works well in sea water and even in acidic or alkaline environments."

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