A team of researchers at the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering has designed a new material for protection in extremely low temperatures. The feature of material is it combines the flexibility of human skin with improved conductivity and temperature tolerance as low as -93 C.
Termed ionic skin or iSkin – the new material could improve wide spectrum of technologies from wearable electronics to soft robotics.
Classified under a category of materials called hydrogels – the details of the substance is described in a recent publication of Advanced Functional Materials.
Structurally, hydrogels are cross-linked polymers that can hold a lot of water within the chemical structure. In fact, a number of tissues in our body are hydrogels because of which they find applications where biocompatibility is important such as tissue engineering or cosmetics.
But to use them in flexible, soft, or wearable electronics – new functionalities of electrical conductivity and mechanical stretch ability needs to be added.
Meanwhile, last year, the research team unveiled a predecessor version of the substance that displayed some capabilities: Nontoxic, self-powered and can stretch as much as 400 percent of the original size.
Most importantly for its characteristics, bending of the material results in proportional change in the conductivity. This enables the material to convert physical movement into analogous electrical signal.
To test the functioning of the material, a physiotherapist could join it to the knee or elbow to measure the displacement of the knee. In addition, the material also coated on a glove, thus, enabling to measure and track displacement of the hand. This, in turn can be used to control a robot. Overall, the material is a versatile means to facilitate all types of human and machine interactions.