E-skin equipped with an array of giant magneto resistance sensors.
Flexible electronic skin equipped with an array of giant magneto resistance sensors and complex electronics circuit designed and developed for sensing distribution of magnetic field.
Source: Masaya Kondo

Integrate micro chips for electronic skin

First fully integrated flexible electronics made of magnetic sensors and organic circuits opens the path towards the development of electronic skin.

Human skin is a fascinating and multifunctional organ with unique properties originating from its flexible and compliant nature. It allows for interfacing with external physical environment through numerous receptors interconnected with the nervous system. Scientists have been trying to transfer these features to artificial skin for a long time, aiming at robotic applications. Operation of robotic systems heavily rely on electronic and magnetic field sensing functionalities required for positioning and orientation in space. A lot of research and development have been devoted into implementation of these functionalities in a flexible and compliant form. The recent advancements in flexible sensors and organic electronics provided important prerequisites. These devices can operate on soft and elastic surfaces, whereas sensors perceive various physical properties and transmit them via readout circuits.

To closely replicate natural skin, it is however necessary to interconnect a big number of individual sensors. This challenging task became a major obstacle in realizing electronic skin. First demonstrations were based on an array of individual sensors addressed separately, which unavoidably resulted into a tremendous number of electronic connections. In order to reduce the necessary wiring, an important technology step had to be done. Namely, complex electronic circuits, such as shift registers, amplifiers, current sources and switches must be combined with individual magnetic sensors to achieve fully integrated devices.

Researchers from Dresden, Chemnitz and Osaka could overcome this obstacle in a pioneering active matrix magnetic sensor system. The sensor system consists of a 2 x 4 array of magnetic sensors, an organic bootstrap shift register, required for controlling the sensor matrix, and organic signal amplifiers. The special feature is that all electronic components are based on organic thin-film transistors and are integrated within a single platform. The researchers demonstrate that the system has a high magnetic sensitivity and can acquire the two-dimensional magnetic field distribution in real time. It is also very robust against mechanical deformation, such as bending, creasing or kinking. In addition to full system integration, the use of organic bootstrap shift registers is a very important development step towards active matrix electronic skin for robotic and wearable applications.

Prof. Dr. Oliver G. Schmidt, Director at the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research Dresden and Dr. Daniil Karnaushenko on the next steps: “Our first integrated magnetic functionalities prove that thin-film flexible magnetic sensors can be integrated within complex organic circuits. Ultra-compliant and flexible nature of these devices is indispensable feature for modern and future applications such as soft robotics, implants and prosthetics. The next step is to increase the number of sensors per surface area as well as to expand the electronic skin to fit larger surfaces."

Subscribe to our newsletter

Related articles

Prosthetics: sensors implanted for wireless control of muscle signal

Prosthetics: sensors implanted for wireless control of muscle signal

Researchers have successfully implanted sensors in three male patients following nerve transfers, to transmit biosignals for wireless control of robotic arms.

Exceptional sensitive e-skin for prosthetics

Exceptional sensitive e-skin for prosthetics

Researchers have developed an e-skin that may soon have a sense of touch equivalent to, or better than, the human skin with the Asynchronous Coded Electronic Skin (ACES).

Spray coated tactile sensor for robots and prosthetics

Spray coated tactile sensor for robots and prosthetics

Robots will be able to conduct a wide variety of tasks as well as humans if they can be given tactile sensing capabilities.

3D printing helps form wearable sensor

3D printing helps form wearable sensor

Researchers have developed a highly sensitive wearable pressure sensor for health monitoring applications and early diagnosis of diseases.

Bioelectronic implant could prevent opioid deaths

Bioelectronic implant could prevent opioid deaths

Researchers are developing a device that can sense the effects of a potentially fatal level of ingested opioids and deliver a life-saving dose of naloxone.

Implants enable man to control prosthetics with ‘thoughts’

Implants enable man to control prosthetics with ‘thoughts’

Researchers have implanted electrodes in brain of a person who is mostly paralyzed to enable him to have some “mind control” of motorized prosthetic arms.

Robotic hand merges amputee and robotic Control

Robotic hand merges amputee and robotic Control

Scientists have successfully tested neuroprosthetic technology that combines robotic control with users’ voluntary control, opening avenues in the new interdisciplinary field of shared control for neuroprosthetic technologies.

Implants: reconfigurable electronics promise innovations

Implants: reconfigurable electronics promise innovations

Medical implants of the future may feature reconfigurable electronic platforms that can morph in shape and size dynamically.

Circuit implants release painkillers inside the body

Circuit implants release painkillers inside the body

Researchers have developed biodegradable microresonators that could soon be used in implants to control the release of painkillers within tissue.

Popular articles