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      Stretchable silicon nanoribbon electronics for skin prosthesis

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          Abstract

          Sensory receptors in human skin transmit a wealth of tactile and thermal signals from external environments to the brain. Despite advances in our understanding of mechano- and thermosensation, replication of these unique sensory characteristics in artificial skin and prosthetics remains challenging. Recent efforts to develop smart prosthetics, which exploit rigid and/or semi-flexible pressure, strain and temperature sensors, provide promising routes for sensor-laden bionic systems, but with limited stretchability, detection range and spatio-temporal resolution. Here we demonstrate smart prosthetic skin instrumented with ultrathin, single crystalline silicon nanoribbon strain, pressure and temperature sensor arrays as well as associated humidity sensors, electroresistive heaters and stretchable multi-electrode arrays for nerve stimulation. This collection of stretchable sensors and actuators facilitate highly localized mechanical and thermal skin-like perception in response to external stimuli, thus providing unique opportunities for emerging classes of prostheses and peripheral nervous system interface technologies.

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          Most cited references 24

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          Highly sensitive flexible pressure sensors with microstructured rubber dielectric layers.

          The development of an electronic skin is critical to the realization of artificial intelligence that comes into direct contact with humans, and to biomedical applications such as prosthetic skin. To mimic the tactile sensing properties of natural skin, large arrays of pixel pressure sensors on a flexible and stretchable substrate are required. We demonstrate flexible, capacitive pressure sensors with unprecedented sensitivity and very short response times that can be inexpensively fabricated over large areas by microstructuring of thin films of the biocompatible elastomer polydimethylsiloxane. The pressure sensitivity of the microstructured films far surpassed that exhibited by unstructured elastomeric films of similar thickness, and is tunable by using different microstructures. The microstructured films were integrated into organic field-effect transistors as the dielectric layer, forming a new type of active sensor device with similarly excellent sensitivity and response times.
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            An ultra-lightweight design for imperceptible plastic electronics.

            Electronic devices have advanced from their heavy, bulky origins to become smart, mobile appliances. Nevertheless, they remain rigid, which precludes their intimate integration into everyday life. Flexible, textile and stretchable electronics are emerging research areas and may yield mainstream technologies. Rollable and unbreakable backplanes with amorphous silicon field-effect transistors on steel substrates only 3 μm thick have been demonstrated. On polymer substrates, bending radii of 0.1 mm have been achieved in flexible electronic devices. Concurrently, the need for compliant electronics that can not only be flexed but also conform to three-dimensional shapes has emerged. Approaches include the transfer of ultrathin polyimide layers encapsulating silicon CMOS circuits onto pre-stretched elastomers, the use of conductive elastomers integrated with organic field-effect transistors (OFETs) on polyimide islands, and fabrication of OFETs and gold interconnects on elastic substrates to realize pressure, temperature and optical sensors. Here we present a platform that makes electronics both virtually unbreakable and imperceptible. Fabricated directly on ultrathin (1 μm) polymer foils, our electronic circuits are light (3 g m(-2)) and ultraflexible and conform to their ambient, dynamic environment. Organic transistors with an ultra-dense oxide gate dielectric a few nanometres thick formed at room temperature enable sophisticated large-area electronic foils with unprecedented mechanical and environmental stability: they withstand repeated bending to radii of 5 μm and less, can be crumpled like paper, accommodate stretching up to 230% on prestrained elastomers, and can be operated at high temperatures and in aqueous environments. Because manufacturing costs of organic electronics are potentially low, imperceptible electronic foils may be as common in the future as plastic wrap is today. Applications include matrix-addressed tactile sensor foils for health care and monitoring, thin-film heaters, temperature and infrared sensors, displays, and organic solar cells.
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              Conformable, flexible, large-area networks of pressure and thermal sensors with organic transistor active matrixes.

              Skin-like sensitivity, or the capability to recognize tactile information, will be an essential feature of future generations of robots, enabling them to operate in unstructured environments. Recently developed large-area pressure sensors made with organic transistors have been proposed for electronic artificial skin (E-skin) applications. These sensors are bendable down to a 2-mm radius, a size that is sufficiently small for the fabrication of human-sized robot fingers. Natural human skin, however, is far more complex than the transistor-based imitations demonstrated so far. It performs other functions, including thermal sensing. Furthermore, without conformability, the application of E-skin on three-dimensional surfaces is impossible. In this work, we have successfully developed conformable, flexible, large-area networks of thermal and pressure sensors based on an organic semiconductor. A plastic film with organic transistor-based electronic circuits is processed to form a net-shaped structure, which allows the E-skin films to be extended by 25%. The net-shaped pressure sensor matrix was attached to the surface of an egg, and pressure images were successfully obtained in this configuration. Then, a similar network of thermal sensors was developed with organic semiconductors. Next, the possible implementation of both pressure and thermal sensors on the surfaces is presented, and, by means of laminated sensor networks, the distributions of pressure and temperature are simultaneously obtained.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature Communications
                Nat Commun
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                2041-1723
                December 2014
                December 9 2014
                December 2014
                : 5
                : 1
                Article
                10.1038/ncomms6747
                25490072
                © 2014

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