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Brief Published: 5 Aug 2013

Light-Up Skin


Scientists at the University of Berkeley in the US have developed a form of electronic skin that lights up in response to touch. The more intense the pressure, the brighter the light it emits.

The concept is the first user-interactive sensor network to be built onto flexible plastic. The technology consists of semi-conducting carbon nanotube transistors, pressure-sensitive polymer sensors and OLEDs, positioned on a sheet of flexible plastic.

“We are not just making devices; we are building systems,” said lead scientist Ali Javey, associate professor of engineering and computer sciences at Berkeley. “With the interactive e-skin, we have demonstrated an elegant system on plastic that can be wrapped around different objects to enable a new form of human-machine interfacing."

The e-skin has a number of potential applications, including touch-sensitive skin for robots, interactive vehicle dashboards, medical e-bandages that monitor patients’ health in real-time, and interactive wallpapers.

The research team is now looking at including other sensory stimuli, such as light and sound sensitivity, into the e-skin. "We are also experimenting with the possibility of having the whole system built using roll-to-roll printing processes for large-scale, low-cost fabrication of the sensor networks,” adds Chuang Wang, co-author of the study.

For more examples of responsive surface design, look at Elastic Tech and Chameleon, part of our new Macro Trend Agile Futures.

University of Berkeley