An electronic skin is being created by scientists that responds to touch by instantly lighting up. The more intense is the pressure, the brighter is the light emitted.
Ali Javey, UC Berkeley associate professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences, said that with the interactive e-skin, they have showed an elegant system on plastic that can be wrapped around different objects to enable a new form of human-machine interfacing.
This latest e-skin builds on Javey's earlier work using semiconductor nanowire transistors layered on top of thin rubber sheets.
The engineers believe the new e-skin technology could also be used to create things like wallpapers that double as touchscreen displays and dashboard laminates that allow drivers to adjust electronic controls with the wave of a hand.
Study co-lead author Chuan Wang, who conducted the work as a post-doctoral researcher in Javey's lab at UC Berkeley, said that he could imagine an e-skin bandage applied to an arm as a health monitor that continuously checks blood pressure and pulse rates.
The experimental samples of the latest e-skin measure 16-by-16 pixels. Within each pixel sits a transistor, an organic LED and a pressure sensor.
To create the pliable e-skin, the engineers cured a thin layer of polymer on top of a silicon wafer.
Once the plastic hardened, they could run the material through fabrication tools already in use in the semiconductor industry to layer on the electronic components.
After the electronics were stacked, they simply peeled off the plastic from the silicon base, leaving a freestanding film with a sensor network embedded in it.
The new findings have been published in the journal Nature Materials.