Super Skin Stretches The Limits Of The Artificial

As created bio-technologies become morerobust, researchers like Zhenan Bao are pushing the artificialenvelope with what she hopes will become “super skin”.

Bao has been developing her new skinmodel at Stanford for a number of years and has now been able torefine the design to include a host of useful features for futureapplications.

The skin-smart scientist started bycreating a flexible surface so sensitive that it could feel thedelicate touch of a fly. Now, Bao is attempting to increase theskin’s appeal by adding a host of new features.

To begin, Bao has now made the skinself-powering – using polymer solar cells to grant it the abilityto feel. In addition, she has made the skin and solar cells not justflexible but stretchable – up to 30% - an important feature inartificial skin technology.

Why? Because if skin is merelyflexible, say around the elbows, it will distend rather than snappingback to its original configuration. This means that stretchable skin,rather than simple a flexible version, will be far better atemulating the real thing.

Bao is also looking to take her skin tothe next level and rightly earn it the moniker of “super” byallowing it to detect biological contaminants. This is accomplishedby placing a nanometer-thick coating on the surface of the skin thatallows it to bond with incoming molecules, signaling that aparticular strain is out and about.

Different diseases have different “biomarkers” associated with them that will reliably identify them andallow proper treatment to begin far earlier than with other, moretraditional methods.

This is where it all comes back topower – the detection, flexibility and stretchability of the skinall need power to function and the solar cells Bao has installed makethe entire artificial product work together and provide a viable wayto keep working over time.

The hope for Bao and her colleagues isto outfit robots with small amounts of the skin that will allow themto detect contaminants on humans or in the environment.

Oh – and the skin is biodegradable –can’t have it polluting the environment after its done its job.

There you have it – the skinny onthis new technology.

Source: Phys Org

Photo Credit: Stanford University