A group of UC Berkeley engineers have developed a new kind of pressure-sensitive electronic skin. While touch-sensitive e-skin is not new, current versions utilize a separate device, such as a computer, to display the measured data. The Cal engineers say their e-skin is the first of its kind to be user-interactive; it responds to touch by instantly lighting up, with more intense pressure causing the light to become brighter.
The current prototype consists of an array of 16-by-16 pixels. Each pixel contains a transistor, an organic LED and a pressure sensor. Of course, since it’s e-skin, the system is made from flexible and paper-thin plastic that can be easily laminated on any surface. Most of the production techniques utilize existing semiconductor technology, which will make e-skin potentially easy to commercialize and inexpensive to produce.
While the primary applications of the interactive e-skin are smarter robots and next-generation touchscreen displays, researchers also envision incorporating the artificial skin into advanced health monitoring tools. According to Chuan Wang, one of the co-lead authors of the study, “I could also imagine an e-skin bandage applied to an arm as a health monitor that continuously checks blood pressure and pulse rates.”