Scientists have reportedly pinpointed a method using tiny gold particles and a type of resin to develop a flexible sensor that may one day be integrated into electronic skin or e-skin. If the e-skin can be attached to prosthetic limbs, the scientists say, the findings could hold promise for amputees by providing the ability to feel changes in the environment.

A recent news release reports that while current types of e-skin detect only touch, scientists at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology note that their sensor “can simultaneously sense touch, humidity, and temperature, as real skin can do,” according to Hossam Haick, PhD, research team leader. The new system, Haick adds, “is at least 10 times more sensitive in touch than the currently existing touch-based e-skin systems.”

The team states that the flexible sensor runs on low voltage, measures a wide range of pressures, and has the ability to make more than one measurement at a time. This includes humidity, temperature, pressure, and presence of chemicals. The monolayer-capped nanoparticles used in the sensor are 5 to 8 nanometers in diameter and are comprised of gold and surrounded by ligands. The team observed when these nanoparticles were laid on top of a flexible polyethylene terephthalate, the resulting compound conducted electricity differently depending upon how the substrate was bent. Researches explain that the electrical property implies that the sensor can detect a wide range of pressures, from tens of milligrams to tens of grams.

Nir Peled, MD, PhD, FCCP, head of the Thoracic Cancer Research and Detection Center at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center, who was not involved in the research, adds that the “sensor is very stable and can be attached to any surface shape while keeping the function stable.” Pele also designates the development of the artificial skin as a biosensor by Hiack and his team as a breakthrough for nanotechnology.

[Source: American Technion Society]