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HomeHighlights‘Electronic skin’ – a cheap & recyclable alternative to wearable devices

‘Electronic skin’ – a cheap & recyclable alternative to wearable devices

10 November 2020: Imagine a skin peeling off the face of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator film franchise … Also, consider that by 2021, estimates suggest that humans will have produced over 55 million tons of discarded smart phones, laptops and other electronics.

So, a team, led by Jianliang Xiao and Wei Zhang, at the University of Colorado Boulder are developing a wearable electronic device that’s “really wearable” – a stretchy and fully-recyclable circuit board that’s inspired by, and sticks onto, human skin. The new “electronic skin” 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.

“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.”

According to the researchers, such high-tech skin could allow people to collect accurate data about their bodies – all while cutting down on the world’s surging quantities of electronic waste. The researchers previously described their design for electronic skin in 2018. But their latest version of the technology makes a lot of improvements on the concept – for a start, it’s far more elastic, not to mention functional. The project also represents a new approach to manufacturing electronics – one that could be much better for the planet. So, both the electronics and the stretchy material can then be reused.

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