A research team in China has developed electronic skin that can change colors and has applications for wearable electronics and prostethics. Via design news
Devices like robots and artificial limbs increasingly are being developed with qualities that are similar to their real-life counterparts thanks to the work of scientists. Now the invention of artificial electronic skin that can change color by researchers in China could give these types of designs even more advanced capabilities.
The team at Tsinghua University in Beijing was inspired by animals, such as chameleons, octopus, and squid, to create the skin, using an engineering design practice called biomimicry that takes inspiration from nature. Indeed, these animals naturally have skin that can change color depending on environmental factors, a characteristic that helps the animals protect themselves from prey or hide when hunting for food.
Researchers in the past already have developed artificial skin that can change color. However, the changes typically were only visible to the naked eye when a huge mechanical strain is put on the material.
What’s different about the artificial skin that the Tsinghua team invented is that its color change can be seen with only a low level of strain, researchers said. They were able to achieve this by using the combination of a highly sensitive resistive strain sensor and a stretchable organic electrochromic device made from the material graphene.
“We explored the substrate effect on the electromechanical behavior of graphene,” Profesor Tingting Yang of Tsinghua University said. “To obtain good performance with a simple process and reduced cost, we designed a modulus-gradient structure to use graphene as both the highly sensitive strain-sensing element and the insensitive stretchable electrode of the electrochromic device layer.”
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