Zhenan Bao is a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford University who is on a mission to invest the next-generation of artificial skin that would be able to act like normal skin. The research team from Stanford is using the idea that when a fingertip touches something it transmits a signal to the brain, and then trying to mimic that process with an artificial material that could replicate the process.
“In my lab, we are trying to understand how we can design organic electronic materials. The current electronic devices are rigid, but in the future, we want to make them flexible, stretchable biodegradable and self-healable, just like human skin,” Bao said.
One of the teams aims is to give patients who have prosthetic limbs, the sensation of skin reacting to something that has touched it through the organic electronic material. The piece of material looks like a piece of plastic but Bao says that the electrodes can turn the touch signal into electrical pulses.
The team also researched how to make the plastic slivers heal once they were scratched. Bao told NPR, “Some repair very quickly, with a minute, some take hours or days to recover. But now we also have a new version that can stretch to eigh times its original length.