It’s common knowledge by now that nature’s resilient and adaptive techniques have inspired a large number of inventions throughout history. We’ve used it to build trains, cars, airplanes and now we might even have an artificial skin inspired by an octopus.
A group of graduate students from Cornell University have managed to develop an electroluminescent skin, that can extend up to seven times its size, change colors and even respond to a person’s mood.
In order to create the octopus-inspired glowing skin technology, the researchers used a hyper-elastic light-emitting capacitor (HLEC) made from a pair of ionic, hydrogel electrodes that were previously embedded in a silicon matrix.
According to the team, this device was used because it can stretch easier than other light emitters, that are based on organic semiconductors.
The matrix contains zinc sulfide and several transition metals, which emit various wavelengths when exposed to electric currents (e.g. magnesium gives a yellow light and copper gives a blue light). This allows the electroluminescent skin the possibility to change its color.
The Cornell University team tested their creation by putting it on a three-chamber soft robot. They also added inflatable layers at the bottom of the robot in order to give it the flexibility to move.
What they discovered was that each linear expansion of the robot’s chambers caused the system to move back and forth with irregular motions, similar to a worm’s pattern.
Robert Shepherd is the lead author of this study and a mechanical and aerospace engineering professor at Cornell. He explains that his team was able to create two things: a display that is able to change shapes and a soft robot that has the capacity to change colors and information display.
The group of scientists believe that their creation represents a significant development for the field of robotics. This artificial skin could have a number of practical applications, allowing robots to express moods and to form an emotional connection with humans.
According to Shepherd, their product could also be used in wearable electronic devices, because of its high stretchability, that enables it to mould in the wearer’s shape.
Co-author Chris Larson continued this idea with an example, saying that someone could be in a meeting and wear a rubber band device on their arm and use it to check e-mails.
For more information on this study and its applicability, visit the latest edition of the journal Science.
Image Source: Gizmag