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Recycable Electronic Skin – Colorado, United States

“We want a device that is easy to recycle.”

According to researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, they are developing a wearable electronic device – a stretchy and fully-recyclable circuit board that’s inspired by, and sticks onto, human skin.

The team, led by Jianliang Xiao and Wei Zhang, describes its new “electronic skin” in a paper published today in the journal Science Advances. The device can heal itself, much like real skin. It also reliably performs a range of sensory tasks, from measuring the body temperature of users to tracking their daily step counts.

It is built as a network of liquid wires encased in thin layers of a special polymer. And when damaged or torn, pinch the broken areas together and the latter material can reform within just 13 minutes.

“Those bonds help to form a network across the cut. They then begin to grow together,” Zhang said. “It’s similar to skin healing, but we’re talking about covalent chemical bonds here.”

Flexible electronic skin by CU Boulder. Image by Chuanqian Shi. Flexible electronic skin by CU Boulder. Image by Chuanqian Shi.

According to the team, the concept behind the device could lead to a future where the recyclable, high-tech ‘skins’ could allow people to collect biometric data without the electronic waste associated with, for example, smart watches. This new “electronic skin” device can stretch by 60% in any direction without losing its functionality. It is a little thicker than a Band-Aid.

“If you want to wear this like a watch, you can put it around your wrist,” said Xiao, an associate professor in the Paul M. Rady Department of Mechanical Engineering at CU Boulder. “If you want to wear this like a necklace, you can put it on your neck.”

“Our solution to electronic waste is to start with how we make the device, not from the end-point, or when it’s already been thrown away,” said Professor Xiao.

Before that, CU Boulder researchers have been developing advanced electronic skin and investigating applications surrounding the material’s ability to shapeshift since 2019. This technology has been developed by CU Boulder Associate Professor Jianliang Xiao of the Department of Mechanical Engineering in collaboration with Professor Wei Zhang of the Department of Chemistry. It is completely recyclable, self-healing e-skin, leading improvements in human health, robotics, prosthetics and beyond.

Read also about another electronic skin product that has been created by Takao Someya more than a decade ago in Bionic Skin Saves Our Lives – Tokyo, Japan.


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Source: Self-healing ‘electronic skin’ that can track your step count and monitor your heart rate could offer an environmentally-friendly alternative to wearable devices — Self-healing, fully-recyclable electronic skin has new applications — Electronic skin’ promises cheap and recyclable alternative to wearable devices.