This ‘Skin’ Is as Hard as Artificial Tooth Enamel and Can Heal Itself #WearableWednesday


In 1941, George de Mestral, a Swiss engineer, noticed his dog was covered in burrs after a long walk in the Alps. Fourteen years and many microscope slides later, de Mestral patented the hooked design for Velcro, inspired by the burrs. Velcro is probably the most well-known form of biomimicry, or human-made designs based on natural structures. Since then, slug mucus has inspired surgical glue, lotus leaves have helped create self-cleaning surfaces, and spider silk has been harnessed to create super-strong fibers.

The most recent iteration is a self-healing polymer that mimics human skin and is as hard as artificial tooth enamel, described in a study published today by ACS Nano.

“We have been always amazed by the power of nature to create sophisticated structures using [the] most elegant way,” Ming Yang, the senior author on this study and professor at the Harbin Institute of Technology in China, told me via email. Yang and his co-authors modeled the material they developed after human skin, setting out to create a polymer that is both self-healing and hard.

When the epidermis, the thick outermost layer of skin, is damaged, cells from the softer layer underneath migrate to the top to heal the injury, hardening and becoming dead cells to protect the live layers beneath.

Our skin is not very stiff, however. It is certainly not as hard as tooth enamel, but teeth cannot repair themselves, as anyone who has had a cavity filled knows. Yang and his co-authors created a material that represents the best of both worlds, with a multilayer structure similar to skin to mimic the self-healing process.

They created the layers using polyvinyl alcohol, a synthetic polymer that has been used in everything from fishing to eye drops, and tannic acid, which is used to stain wood and clarify beer. They are both environmentally friendly, Yang told me. He and his co-authors describe this as a “living” layer, and it acts like the live skin layered under your epidermis. The upper layers have high concentrations of graphene oxide, a hard substance also used in battery electrodes.

See and read more!

Flora breadboard is Every Wednesday is Wearable Wednesday here at Adafruit! We’re bringing you the blinkiest, most fashionable, innovative, and useful wearables from around the web and in our own original projects featuring our wearable Arduino-compatible platform, FLORA. Be sure to post up your wearables projects in the forums or send us a link and you might be featured here on Wearable Wednesday!

Adafruit publishes a wide range of writing and video content, including interviews and reporting on the maker market and the wider technology world. Our standards page is intended as a guide to best practices that Adafruit uses, as well as an outline of the ethical standards Adafruit aspires to. While Adafruit is not an independent journalistic institution, Adafruit strives to be a fair, informative, and positive voice within the community – check it out here:

Join Adafruit on Mastodon

Adafruit is on Mastodon, join in!

Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.

Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.

Join us every Wednesday night at 8pm ET for Ask an Engineer!

Join over 36,000+ makers on Adafruit’s Discord channels and be part of the community!

CircuitPython – The easiest way to program microcontrollers –

Maker Business — “Packaging” chips in the US

Wearables — Enclosures help fight body humidity in costumes

Electronics — Transformers: More than meets the eye!

Python for Microcontrollers — Python on Microcontrollers Newsletter: Silicon Labs introduces CircuitPython support, and more! #CircuitPython #Python #micropython @ThePSF @Raspberry_Pi

Adafruit IoT Monthly — Guardian Robot, Weather-wise Umbrella Stand, and more!

Microsoft MakeCode — MakeCode Thank You!

EYE on NPI — Maxim’s Himalaya uSLIC Step-Down Power Module #EyeOnNPI @maximintegrated @digikey

New Products – Adafruit Industries – Makers, hackers, artists, designers and engineers! — #NewProds 7/19/23 Feat. Adafruit Matrix Portal S3 CircuitPython Powered Internet Display!

Get the only spam-free daily newsletter about wearables, running a "maker business", electronic tips and more! Subscribe at !

No Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.