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NO.427 08.06.2018

‘Electronic Skin’ Unveils ‘Innovative Life Style Change’

Until recently, the focus of advancements in electronic devices was on their ‘size.’ From portable devices to wearable devices, however, the mantra of “make it smaller” has now hit its limit

 

Professor Jin Young Oh of the Chemical Engineering Department has been searching for a new keyword that will replace ‘size’: what he has found is ‘distance.’ The distance between the electronic device and the human body has been gradually diminishing. The distance between a portable device and the body was measured in centimeters (cm) while that between the body and a wearable device is measured in millimeters (mm). However, Professor Oh predicts that the next-generation electronic device will measure ‘zero,’ with the introduction of the electronic skin, or e-skin.

 

Since his post-doctoral fellow days at Stanford University, Professor Oh has been researching materials deemed appropriate for e-skin. He has succeeded in developing an electrical material that can stretch like the human skin and self-repair wounds.

 

Two research articles on this for which he was a co-author and the main-author, ‘A bioinspired flexible organic artificial afferent nerve’ and ‘Skin-inspired electronics: An emerging paradigm’, were published in June respectively in Science (1F 41.058) and Accounts of Chemical Research (1F 20.955).

 

Electronic material developed by Professor Oh’s research team is inspired by human skin. It stretches to accommodate the physical movements of the human body, and it self-repairs various wounds incurred during daily activities. Because e-skin can be worn like clothes or attached to the skin, there is no longer a need to carry electronic devices. Given its self-healing property, even when the device breaks down, it doesn’t need to be thrown away. Hence, lifespan of a device is significantly extended, too.

 

 

This invention will likely affect our lives in dramatic ways. Not only will it absorb the functions found in a mobile phone, but it will add two more significant functions. One is ‘bio-healthcare,’ in which the electronic device on the skin will measure one’s health, collecting the information real-time. Then, because the data is linked to the hospital system, it will help all of us live healthier lives.

 

Stretchable and breathable mesh structure semiconductors, expected to help cardiac patients
Mesh structure semiconductors can be used to make prosthetic arms and legs. Whether it is a congenital condition or the result of an unfortunate accident, patients with missing limbs will enjoy both esthetic satisfaction and sensory function recovery with ‘smart prosthetics.’ Electronic materials will be used to create these prosthetics.

 

Professor Oh is also paying attention to the human skin. Skin rash caused by wearable devices is an issue that is beginning to circulate in academia. He created the mesh structure semiconductor, which allows smaller area of contact with the skin so that it can breathe better.

 

Professor Oh explains that this is a benefit that could help cardiac patients. He said, “Pacemakers, used to regulate the heartbeat, are sometimes implanted in the human heart. When the pacemaker is made of hard and solid material, it is more likely to provoke inflammation in the organ. To minimize these adverse effects, the material should be softer and its contact with the tissues must be minimized. Nano-size mesh structures can yield such benefits.”

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