This synthetic skin produces energy from sweat to feed all kinds of biosensors

The world of electronic skins has come a long way in recent years. However, the new synthetic leather developed by Caltech introduces an important novelty: it gets its energy from sweat.

Furthermore, this skin can be integrated with biosensors capable of detecting information such as heart rate, body temperature, blood sugar levels, metabolic by-products that indicate health and even the nerve signals that control our muscles. As if that were not enough, it is completely harmless and is simply placed on the true skin.

An electronic skin "fed" by sweat

The world of synthetic leather is not exactly new. There are different types and possibilities. However, this is the first capable of obtaining energy entirely from the sweat of the wearer. Without a doubt, this is its most notable feature. Like other similar leathers, this synthetic piece is capable of adapting a wide range of biosensors.

The developers of this synthetic skin, Andrew and Peggy Cherng, claim that it can be integrated with sensors to monitor heart rate, body temperature, blood sugar levels and metabolic by-products of health indicators, among other things. But, for this to be possible, it is essential that the skin has energy, especially when communicating with a device.

While direct contact communication can be a battery-free application of electronic skin, distance places many limitations on you. Bluetooth communication, for example, consumes more power but is much more interesting to ensure good connectivity between practical robotic and medical applications.

This skin is able to completely power this communication system without the need for a battery or connection. To do this, it uses biofuel cells made from carbon nanotubes impregnated with a platinum and cobalt catalyst, and a composite mesh containing an enzyme that breaks down lactate. This substance is very present in our sweat. By breaking down, they can generate continuous and stable energy production, up to several milliwatts per square centimeter, for several days thanks to human sweat.

An interesting advance towards the future of electronic skins

What is an electronic skin for? Its developers plans are to pave future devices that serve as a "human-machine" interface, as well as comfortable, durable and effective biosensors to measure all kinds of biological variables. In the development of synthetic leather, the connection between the skin itself and the device that "reads" your information is always a major problem.

Solving the energy question is one of the main tasks of researchers who are faced with the impossibility of using external batteries or encountering the rapid degradation of synthetic skin tissue. Fortunately, it not only lasts a long time, according to the researchers, but it also allows biosensors complete autonomy. They also ensure communication.

Consequently, the team believes that these types of devices will not only help develop "patches" to monitor biological values, but also open a way to advance a more efficient human-machine interface. The team imagines that this type of patches will be able to connect to an external device just by applying the synthetic skin, without more, being able to keep a person connected to another device for days and without needing anything else.

Images | Caltech

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