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]

Emerging Tech

How 3D printing has changed the world of prosthetic limbs forever

When he was 13 years old, Christophe Debard had his leg amputated. Here in 2019, Debard's Print My Leg startup helps others to create 3D-printed prostheses. Welcome to a growing revolution!
Emerging Tech

Harvard looks to the natural world to make its snake robots even faster

Researchers from Harvard have found a way to make its snake robots faster. The secret? Using a Japanese paper craft called kirigami to better grip the ground, just like a real snake's skin.
Gaming

Tips and tricks for beginners entering the postapocalypse in Days Gone

Days Gone has finally arrived on PS4 after multiple days. After more than 35 hours spent in the post-apocalyptic vision of the Pacific Northwest, we've learned a lot. Here are ten tips and tricks to help you get started.
Deals

These are the best memory foam mattress toppers for a better night’s sleep

You may not want to drop a bunch of cash on a new mattress, but with a good mattress topper, you may not have to. Modern technologies make it easier to get a good night's sleep, and we've rounded up the top 10 mattress toppers you can buy.
Emerging Tech

Troubleshooting Earth

It’s no secret that humans are killing the planet. Some say it’s actually so bad that we’re hurtling toward a sixth major extinction event -- one which we ourselves are causing. But can technology help us undo the damage we’ve…
Emerging Tech

Inside the Ocean Cleanup’s ambitious plan to rid the ocean of plastic waste

In 2013, Boyan Slat crowdfunded $2.2 million to fund the Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit organization that builds big, floating trash collectors and sets them out to sea, where they’re designed to autonomously gobble up garbage.
Emerging Tech

Climeworks wants to clean the atmosphere with a fleet of truck-sized vacuums

Using machines that resemble jet engines, Climeworks wants to fight climate change by extracting CO2 from thin air. The gas can then be sold to carbonated drink and agriculture companies, or sequestered underground.
Emerging Tech

Geoengineering is risky and unproven, but soon it might be necessary

Geoengineering is a field dedicated to purposely changing the world's climate using technology. Call it 'playing god' if you must; here's why its proponents believe it absolutely must happen.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Earth Day, indoor container farming, robot submarines

Today on Digital Trends Live, we discuss how technology intersects with Earth Day, a new Tim Cook biography, indoor container farming, robot spy submarines, A.I. death metal, and more.
Gaming

Google’s Stadia is the future of gaming, and that’s bad news for our planet

Google’s upcoming Stadia cloud gaming service, and its competitors, are ready to change the way gamers play, but in doing so they may kick off a new wave of data center growth – with unfortunate consequences for the environment.
Emerging Tech

Hawaiian botanists’ drone discovers a plant thought to be lost forever

In what may well be a world first, botanists in Hawaii recently used a drone to find a species of plant that scientists believed was extinct. The plant was located on a sheer cliff face nearly 20 years after its last sighting.
Emerging Tech

Alphabet’s Wing drones now have FAA approval to deliver packages in the U.S.

Alphabet Wing has become the first company to receive Air Carrier Certification from the FAA. This means that it can begin commercial deliveries from local businesses to homes in the U.S.
Emerging Tech

A battery-free pacemaker harvests and stores energy from heartbeats

Researchers in China and the United States have developed a new battery-free pacemaker which gathers its required electricity from the energy of heartbeats. Here's why that's so exciting.
Smart Home

The startup behind the world’s first laundry robot has folded

When the Laundroid was first announced almost three years ago, then shown off at last year's CES, it was met with a fair bit of both intrigue and derision. But now Seven Dreamers, the company behind it, says the company is out of money.