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This electronic skin can heal itself — and then make more skin

In a quest to make electronic devices more environmentally friendly, researchers have created an electronic skin that can be completely recycled. The e-skin can also heal itself if it’s torn apart.

The device, described today in the journal Science Advances, is basically a thin film equipped with sensors that can measure pressure, temperature, humidity, and air flow.

The film is made of three commercially available compounds mixed together in a matrix and laced with silver nanoparticles: when the e-skin is cut in two, adding the three compounds to the “wound” allows the e-skin to heal itself by recreating chemical bonds between the two sides.

That way, the matrix is restored and the e-skin is as good as new. If the e-skin is broken beyond repair, it can just be soaked in a solution that “liquefies” it so that the materials can be reused to make new e-skin.

One day, this electronic skin could be used in prosthetics, robots, or smart textiles.

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