Zhenan Bao made electronic skin out of stretchable solar cells. The stretchy skin can detect chemicals and biological molecules, and it is quite sensitive to the touch.
The Stanford University professor thinks that one day, the super skin could be useful for a robot. If a robot comes into contact with an unknown substance, it can use its super skin to figure out what the mysterious substance is. Just think about it. It could someday tell if a person is drunk or not, just by examining the person’s sweat, Bao says.
But super skin isn’t just limited to robots. There are a number of ways the skin could be used. Making stretchable solar cells would make it easier to design solar backpacks or clothes. Not to mention, the added flexibility would help the solar cells be used on surfaces that aren’t flat.
Powering sensors with the sun eliminates the need for a battery pack, making sensors more independent and lighter.
So far, the Stanford scientists have only demonstrated that the electronic skin can detect a type of DNA. But the scientists are hopeful that the super skin can detect proteins and be used as markers for diagnosing diseases.
Author’s note: If you ever get a chance, it’s worth rolling up some flexible solar cells. I visited Mike McGehee’s lab at Stanford last week to find out about flexible solar cells. It was impressive that the solar cells rolled up just like a newspaper. Check back for the video footage and interview.
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