When we last posted about Stanford’s artificial electronic skin project, Zhenan Bao, head researcher of the project and associate professor of chemical engineering at Stanford, spoke of successfully creating a sheet of rubber-based skin that could detect the slightest changes in pressure, so sensitive that it could feel a fly touch down. Since then, Bao has succeeded in adding chemical and biological sensors and has shown that it can detect a certain kind of DNA. Most recently, her team has developed a new, stretchable solar cell that can power this super skin.
According to Bao, the solar cells can stretch up to 30 percent of their normal size and snap back without any damage. A wavy, accordion-like microstructure with a liquid metal electrode allows the solar cells to stretch along two axes.
From the Stanford article:
“One of the applications where stretchable solar cells would be useful is in fabrics for uniforms and other clothes,” said Darren Lipomi, a postdoctoral fellow in Bao’s lab and lead author of the paper.
“There are parts of the body, at the elbow for example, where movement stretches the skin and clothes,” he said. “A device that was only flexible, not stretchable, would crack if bonded to parts of machines or of the body that extend when moved.” Stretchability would be useful in bonding solar cells to curved surfaces without cracking or wrinkling, such as the exteriors of cars, lenses and architectural elements.
The solar cells continue to generate electricity while they are stretched out, producing a continuous flow of electricity for data transmission from the sensors.
Bao sees the potential applications of artificial electronic skin for robots who can do more than what our human skin can do:
“You can imagine a robot hand that can be used to touch some liquid and detect certain markers or a certain protein that is associated with some kind of disease and the robot will be able to effectively say, ‘Oh, this person has that disease,'” she said. “Or the robot might touch the sweat from somebody and be able to say, ‘Oh, this person is drunk.'”
Article from Stanford University: Stanford researcher’s new stretchable solar cells will power artificial electronic ‘super skin’…
Flashback: Stanford’s Rubber Based Artificial Skin