A new paper published in the journal Advanced Materials by researchers from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel, details how scientists developed self-healing sensors that could make wounds heal in less than a day.
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Scientists have always deployed the use of flexible sensors in consumer electronics, robotics, healthcare, and spaceflight among others, but now they figure it could be used to develop electronic skin and prosthetic limbs that sensitize users to environmental changes.
Researchers are aware of the fact that flexible sensors scratch and damage easily; and knowing that human skin possesses great healing powers, they made materials that when integrated into flexible devices would make them heal much more easily, preserving the functionality of the devices.
What the scientists created is a new synthetic polymer with self-healing properties mimicking the human skin, enabling the e-skin wounds to heal of themselves within a day.
“The vulnerability of flexible sensors used in real-world applications calls for the development of self-healing properties similar to how human skins heals,” said self-healing sensor co-developer Professor Hossam Haick. “Accordingly, we have developed a complete, self-healing device in the form of a bendable and stretchable chemiresistor where every part – no matter where the device is cut or scratched – is self-healing.”
Made of high conductivity electrodes, moleculary modified gold nanoparticles, and self-healing substrates, the new sensor has work it takes to work exactly it is designed to do. “The gold particles on top of the substrate and between the self-healing electrodes are able to “heal” cracks that could completely disconnect electrical connectivity,” Prof. Haick said.
One of the great benefits of this electronic skin is that its electronic resistance rises after it is healed, and it can also survive over 20 times of wounding and healing cycles very easily. This means that healing makes the self-healing sensor better and stronger to heal itself more, and the authors of the study say “the healing efficiency of this chemiresistor is so high that the sensor survived several cuttings at random positions.”
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At the moment, the researchers are researching the use of carbon-based self-healing composites and self-healing transistors in their self-healing sensor project.
“The self-healing sensor raises expectations that flexible devices might someday be self-administered, which increases their reliability,” explained Dr. Tan-Phat Huynh, of Technion, whose work focuses on the development of self-healing electronic skin. “One day, the self-healing sensor could serve as a platform for biosensors that monitor human health using electronic skin.”