Self-healing artificial skin

November 16th, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Science & Tech | Comments Off

TechnewsWorld did a story yesterday on Stanford scientists who are developing a polymer material that may be used as artificial, self-healing skin. Researchers, led by Zhenan Bao of  Stanford University  in California, have created a flexible, touch-sensitive, electrically conducting and pressure-sensitive polymer-based material that could have ‘e-skin’  applications for robots  or prosthetic body parts, such as artificial hands.   When the material is cut, then merely pressed back together it “heals” itself to 75% of original strength in a few seconds and to nearly 100% full strength in 30 minutes – much faster than regular skin or course. Check out the full story.

A small piece of the self-healing material is sliced with a scalpel. The researchers say the material repairs itself in about 30 minutes.

Self-healing, synthetic skin has many more possible applications than healing wounds and burns.  For example, regenerative skin could also be helpful for phones.  Touchscreen phones  could be almost impossible to scratch if the glass was made of regenerative material.

When TechNews World author Peter Suciu interviewed me about possible implications of regenerative skin I focused on robotics and the potential uses in space habitats and future space suits. Others in his article focused on regenerative medicine and uses in materials such as sails and vehicles. Very interesting.

A more exciting use of synthetic skin in the future could be for eventual space habitats and space clothing – for example for the day when we do indeed go to Mars to stay.  I would suspect that inflatable habitats made from a material like this (perhaps one that also generates energy) will be very likely.  As future space suits will need to be skin-hugging and tight, and the self-healing properties would be  valuable  for obvious reasons.