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E-Skin – stretchable conductive film

By Milos Kuzmanovic
4 July 2009

JAPAN-SCIENCE-TECHNOLOGYIt is only a matter of time when robots will be more similar or even more advanced than humans. One big step toward this idea was made in Tokyo University. Research group led by Takao Someya, has found electronic skin or E-Skin, a material of very high conductivity that is flexible like ordinary rubber. According to the researchers, this is the first material in the world which solves the problems metals (conductive but do not stretchable) and rubber (hardly transmits electricity) face.

The results of this research showed that E-Skin, originally made of organic transistors developed by combination of carbon nanotubes, fused in ionized liquid and polymers, has the ability of stretching 1.7 times of its original size without any loss of its conductivity or stretching up to 2.3 times of the original size when the conductivity drops roughly by half. The material can be placed over any rough surface without conductivity losses.

Practical uses of this super conductor are unlimited. One of the uses is in car industry on the surface of the steering wheels, where E-Skin could analyze perspiration, body temperature and other data of the driver in order to judge the drivers current condition in order to determine if the driver is capable for driving in that moment. It could be used as a protection against theft etc.

Tsuyoshi Sekitani, a research associate in the team, said:” It could be completely integrated into the normal driving system, making users unaware of using it”.

If this special material would be implemented onto robots it would be able to give them a sense of touch even more advanced than ours. Someya and his colleagues are convinced that the functionality of E-Skin can be expanded so it would be able to incorporate additional types of sensors. In their words, in near future it will be possible to make electronic skin with functions that human skin lacks. The additional sensing would include sensors for temperature, pressure, light, humidity, strain and even the sensors for ultrasonic sound.

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