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Next generation of artificial skin

Assoc. Prof. Anna Maria Coclite © Lunghammer/Garz University of Technology

The ERC grant winner and researcher at the Institute of Solid-State Physics at the Graz University of Technology has succeeded in developing the three-in-one hybrid material "smart skin" for the next generation of artificial, electronic skin using a novel process. The result is a wafer-thin material that reacts simultaneously to force, moisture and temperature with extremely high spatial resolution and emits corresponding electronic signals.

The result of this pioneering research has now been published in the journal Advanced Materials Technologies. In particular, robotics and smart prosthetics would benefit from a better integrated, more precise sensing system similar to human skin, according to the scientist.

The team worked on the development of smart skin for almost six years. With 2,000 individual sensors per square millimetre, the hybrid material is even more sensitive than a human fingertip. Each of these sensors consists of a unique combination of materials: a smart polymer in the form of a hydrogel inside and a shell of piezoelectric zinc oxide. Fields of application for the skin-like material exist in healthcare. For example, the sensor material could independently detect microorganisms and report them accordingly. Prostheses that give the wearer information about temperature or humidity are also conceivable as well as robots that can perceive their environment more sensitively. On the path to application, smart skin scores with a decisive advantage: the sensory nanorods – the

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