Date: 7th July 2020
The skin is the largest organ in the human body and it creates a physical and biological barrier to the environment. It is also an important somatosensory system for humans to perceive, interact, and communicate with the environment. Now scientists have created a breathable, biodegradable, antibacterial, and self-powered electronic skin with highly sensitive capabilities.
Mimicking the comprehensive functions that the human skin possesses is crucial for accelerating the development of human-machine interaction, artificial intelligence and creating the next-generation of wearable medical applications.
Whilst there has been much interest in developing electronic skin (eskin), current systems have in the main only been able to reproduce the major functions of the skin, excluding factors such as comfort, environmental friendliness, and antibacterial activity.
Now scientists from Georgia Institute of Technology, US, the Inner Mongolia University of Technology, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, China, have developed a breathable, biodegradable, and antibacterial e-skin based on all-nanofibre triboelectric nanogenerators creating a flexible and stretchable eskin that harvests energy from motion, allowing self-powered whole-body physiological signal monitoring.
Triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG), is a relatively new energy-harvesting technology; which converts mechanical energy into electricity based on the coupling effect of contact electrification and electrostatic induction caused by friction.
To begin here, the team used TENG to build an e-skin that would attached to almost anywhere on the human body. The eskin consisted of three functional layers; the top polylactic-co-glycolic acid (PLGA) for contact electrification and water proofing, a middle layer containing silver nanowire (Ag NW) electrodes for conducting electricity and also an antibacterial agent, and a bottom layer comprising polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) for flexibility and attachment.
The team here have presented a highly sensitive, self-powered, biodegradable, breathable, antibacterial eskin which was developed for the detection of physiological characteristics and movement states of the whole body.
The team envisage the eskin will have a far-reaching range of medical applications, from personal health monitoring, to rehabilitation of patients, to the enhancement of intelligent prostheses. It may also offer hope in communicating with those that are paralysed, or play a role in medical diagnosis. It seems this tech has a great potential to integrate into many clinical areas.
We are currently in a digital revolution and as such we are seeing an increasing drive of mobile device health apps to detect disease such as heart defects, or skin cancer, and to track fitness and lifestyle it is not hard to imagine the potential benefits the eskin monitor could bring to such tech outside the clinic and into our everyday lives.
This work presented here provides a previously unexplored strategy for multifunctional e-skins with excellent practicability and biocompatibility.
Peng, X., K. Dong, C. Ye, Y. Jiang, S. Zhai, R. Cheng, D. Liu, X. Gao, J. Wang and Z. L. Wang (2020). “A breathable, biodegradable, antibacterial, and self-powered electronic skin based on all-nanofiber triboelectric nanogenerators.” Science Advances 6(26): eaba9624.