An ultra-thin wearable device

Wearable human-machine interfaces – devices that can collect and store important health information about the wearer, among other uses – have benefited from advances in electronics, materials and mechanical designs. But current models still can be bulky and uncomfortable, and they can’t always handle multiple functions at one time. Researchers reported the discovery of a multifunctional ultra-thin wearable electronic device that is imperceptible to the wearer.

Photo
Source: University of Houston

The device allows the wearer to move naturally and is less noticeable than wearing a Band-Aid, said Cunjiang Yu, Bill D. Cook Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Houston and lead author for the paper. “Everything is very thin, just a few microns thick,” said Yu, who also is a principal investigator at the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH. “You will not be able to feel it.”

It has the potential to work as a prosthetic skin for a robotic hand or other robotic devices, with a robust human-machine interface that allows it to automatically collect information and relay it back to the wearer. That has applications for health care – “What if when you shook hands with a robotic hand, it was able to instantly deduce physical condition?” Yu asked – as well as for situations such as chemical spills, which are risky for humans but require human decision-making based on physical inspection.

While current devices are gaining in popularity, the researchers said they can be bulky to wear, offer slow response times and suffer a drop in performance over time. More flexible versions are unable to provide multiple functions at once – sensing, switching, stimulation and data storage, for example – and are generally expensive and complicated to manufacture.

The device described in the paper, a metal oxide semiconductor on a polymer base, offers manufacturing advantages and can be processed at temperatures lower than 300 C. “We report an ultrathin, mechanically imperceptible, and stretchable (human-machine interface) HMI device, which is worn on human skin to capture multiple physical data and also on a robot to offer intelligent feedback, forming a closed-loop HMI,” the researchers wrote. “The multifunctional soft stretchy HMI device is based on a one-step formed, sol-gel-on-polymer-processed indium zinc oxide semiconductor nanomembrane electronics.”

Subscribe to our newsletter

Related articles

Electronic skin reacts to pain like human skin

Electronic skin reacts to pain like human skin

Researchers have developed electronic artificial skin that reacts to pain just like real skin, opening the way to better prosthetics, smarter robotics and non-invasive alternatives to skin grafts.

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.

Medical technology 2020 – a review

Medical technology 2020 – a review

Covid-19 gave many of these predictions for 2020 an entirely new spin: while some of the hyped trends turned out to play only bit-parts others became box-office hits in the new normal.

Bionic touch does not remap the brain

Bionic touch does not remap the brain

Neuroscientists have demonstrated that the brain does not remap itself even with long-term bionic limb use, posing challenges for the development of realistic prosthetic limbs.

Sensor for smart textiles survives hammers

Sensor for smart textiles survives hammers

An ultra-sensitive, resilient strain sensor that can be embedded in textiles and soft robotic systems survived being tested by a washing machine and a car.

AI system for recognition of hand gestures

AI system for recognition of hand gestures

Scientists have developed an AI system that recognises hand gestures by combining skin-like electronics with computer vision.

Humanoid hands create safer human-robotics interactions

Humanoid hands create safer human-robotics interactions

Engineers have designed and developed a novel humanoid hand that may be able to help.

Robotic textiles could enable new mechanotherapy

Robotic textiles could enable new mechanotherapy

A new smart fabric that can be inflated and deflated by temperature-dependent liquid-vapor phase changes could enable a range of medical therapeutics.

Prosthetics that can feel are close to reality

Prosthetics that can feel are close to reality

CU Boulder biomedical engineer Jacob Segil is working to bring back that sense of touch for amputees, including veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Popular articles