Material is touch sensitive and able to conduct electricity
San Francisco, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 12/18/2012 -- A synthetic skin that can heal itself when torn and can sense subtle pressure has been created by scientists at Stanford University.
The material is the first self-healing material that can be a bulk conductor of electricity and does not require high temperatures to be effective. In past trials, synthetic material changed it chemical or mechanical makeup once cut. This new synthetic skin is the first one that has the potential to be practical for day-to-day use.
The synthetic skin developed at Stanford in sensitive enough to sense a handshake's pressure, making it potentially useful for prosthetics. Non-human uses include being used to coat electrical wires and devices that could repair themselves when damaged.
"Before our work, it was very hard to imagine that this kind of flexible, conductive material could also be self-healing," says Chao Wang, a researcher at Stanford.
The researchers ended up with a bendable material after beginning with material that had long chains of molecules joined by hydrogen bonds.
The molecules can break apart easily in the plastic material, but can reorganize themselves when reconnected, maintaining the material's structure.
The mechanical strength of the plastic was increased with the addition of tiny nickel particles. The nickel's nanoscale surface is rough, making the material conductive.
Experiments conducted by the Stanford researchers showed that when the material was cut, then joined back together, it would regain 75 percent of its original strength and electrical conductivity in a few seconds. The material regained 100 percent of its strength back after 30 minutes.
Additional testing showed that same sample could be cut in the same place at least 50 times and was able to maintain its bending and stretching ability just like an uncut piece.
"Even human skin takes days to heal. So, I think this is quite cool," said Stanford researcher Benjamin Chee-Keong Tee.
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