-- Robert Preidt
WEDNESDAY, Nov. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists say they have
created a touch-sensitive plastic "skin" that can heal itself when
torn or cut.
The synthetic skin includes a plastic polymer with molecules
that can reorganize themselves and restore the structure of the
material after it is damaged. Tiny particles of nickel were added
to the polymer in order to increase its mechanical strength and its
ability to conduct electricity.
The Stanford University team tested the healing ability of the
synthetic skin by cutting a piece of it in half with a scalpel.
They then gently pressed the pieces together for a few seconds and
found that the material quickly regained 75 percent of its original
strength and conductivity. Within about a half-hour, the material
was nearly 100 percent restored.
Even after being cut and repaired in the same place 50 times,
the sample retained its original bending and stretching
"Before our work, it was very hard to imagine that this kind of flexible, conductive material could also be self-healing," Chao Wang, a co-first author of the research, said in a university news release.
Twisting or putting pressure on the synthetic skin changes the
distance between the nickel particles and, in turn, the ease with
which electrons can move between the particles. These changes in
electrical resistance can be translated into information about
pressure and tension on the skin.
The material is sensitive enough to detect the pressure of a
handshake, and may be ideal for use in artificial limbs, the
researchers said. They also suggested that coating electrical
devices and wires in this material could give them the ability to
repair themselves and restore the flow of electricity without
costly and difficult repair work, particularly in hard-to-reach
locations such as inside walls or inside vehicles.
The study was published Nov. 11 in the journal
Columbia University's Go Ask Alice explains how
skin heals after being injured.
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