Scientists create self-healing ‘plastic skin’ for better prosthetics and electronic devices

scientists create self healing plastic skin for better prosthetics and electronic devicesProfessor Zhenan Bao and her team at Stanford University evidently do not shy away from grand challenges, for they have just published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology the results of their quest to create a revolutionary new kind of ‘plastic skin’ that can not only sense touch, temperature and pressure, but also repair itself at room temperature.

The self-healing synthetic material could pave the way for better prosthetics and, because it can also conduct electricity, could lead to the production of electronic devices or electrical systems that would be able to self-repair certain kinds of damage.

Bao told Stanford News that although significant advances have been made in recent years in the development of synthetic skin, their self-healing properties were up to now dependent on particular conditions such as extremely high temperatures, making them impractical for regular use. For those synthetic materials that could heal at room temperature, they could do so only one time, as the repairing process altered their mechanical or chemical structure.

To achieve its goal, the team first created a resilient polymer consisting of long chains of molecules linked together by hydrogen bonds. To this the scientists added tiny nickel particles, making the material conductive and improving its mechanical strength.

To test its ability to repair itself, the scientists simply took a piece of the material and cut it in half. Holding the two pieces close together, they discovered it took only a matter of seconds to regain 75 percent of its original strength and conductivity. In just half an hour that figure was just shy of 100 percent.

“Even human skin takes days to heal. So I think this is quite cool,” Benjamin Chee-Keong Tee, a researcher on the project, told Stanford News.

Tee said the material’s sensitive qualities make it able to feel the pressure of a handshake, opening up the possibility of it one day being used in prosthetics.

Stanford News said in its report that “the material is sensitive not only to downward pressure but also to flexing, so a prosthetic limb might someday be able to register the degree of bend in a joint.”

It added that other commercial possibilities could involve wires of electrical systems which, if coated in the new material, would be able to self-repair after being damaged, making it ideal for locations such as inside building walls or vehicles, eliminating the need for potentially expensive maintenance work. And If the team can succeed in its aim to make the material transparent and stretchy, smartphones and the like could be wrapped in the special ‘skin’ to help protect them from damage.

[via SlashGear] [Image: Stanford News]

Smart Home

Researchers are once again trying to science the gluten out of bread

If you've ever found gluten tough to stomach, help may be on the way. Researchers and farmers are exploring solutions that include gene-edited bread, as well as alterations to carbs and fiber.

Learn to scavenge like a pro with our Far Cry New Dawn crafting guide

Far Cry New Dawn revolves around the hunt -- the hunt for materials to craft new weapons, vehicles, and other useful items. It's easy to miss out on great opportunities to find new materials if you don't go off the beaten path.

High-tech but low-key, these are the amazing materials inside your outdoor gear

We take a look at some of the materials that are used in the creation of our favorite outdoor gear, making our jackets, sleeping bags, tents, and other items warmer, drier, and more comfortable even in harsh weather conditions.
Emerging Tech

InSight’s heat probe will dig 16 feet beneath the surface of Mars

New images from NASA's InSight mission to Mars have confirmed that the lander succeeded in setting the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package instrument onto the surface, from where a self-hammering spike will burrow downwards.
Emerging Tech

No faking! Doctors can now objectively measure how much pain you’re in

Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine have discovered the blood biomarkers that can objectively reveal just how much pain a patient is in. Here's why that's so important.
Emerging Tech

SeaBubbles’ new electric hydrofoil boat is the aquatic equivalent of a Tesla

What do you get if you combine a Tesla, a flying car, and a sleek boat? Probably something a bit like SeaBubbles, the French "flying" boat startup which offers a fresh spin on the hydrofoil.
Emerging Tech

We tried a $500 electronic dab rig, and now we can’t go back to normal vaporizers

Induction heating is the future of cannabis vaporizers. Loto Labs wowed us with what likely is the best concentrate vaporizer on the market today. With a $500 price tag, it's expensive, but it should definitely be your next dab rig.
Emerging Tech

Israel will launch world’s first privately funded moon mission tomorrow

This week will see the world's first privately funded lunar mission launch. Israel's first mission to the moon will be launched aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket on Thursday, February 21.
Emerging Tech

FDA warns about the dangers of anti-aging blood transfusions

It turns out injecting old people with blood from healthy youngsters may not be the answer to health rejuvenation. That’s according to the FDA, which says such claims are dangerous junk science.
Emerging Tech

Bees can do arithmetic, setting the scientific community abuzz

A new study has found something remarkable: Bees can do basic arithmetic. Researchers showed that bees could use colors as representations for numbers and then use those colors for addition and subtraction.
Emerging Tech

DeepSqueak is a machine learning A.I. that reveals what rats are chatting about

Want to know what rats are squeaking about? You'd better check out DeepSqueak, the new deep learning artificial intelligence developed by researchers at the University of Washington.
Health & Fitness

Immune cell discovery takes us one step closer to a universal flu vaccine

A group of international researchers have made a discovery which could take us one step closer to the universal, one-shot flu vaccine that people around the world have been dreaming of.

NASA celebrates Earth’s incredible natural beauty with free photo book

NASA has published a fabulous new book featuring stunning imagery captured by its satellites over the years. A hardback version is available for $53, though it can also be downloaded to ebook readers for free, and enjoyed online.

This new all-in-one flashlight is a power bank, lighter, and screwdriver

The Pyyros modular flashlight can perform numerous field tasks, from hammering to starting fires. If you back it on Kickstarter now, you can score some savings on this innovative flashlight and multi-tool, but act fast: This early-bird…