A recent paper published in Advanced Functional Materials describes a next-gen electronic skin that can detect stimuli with new levels of sensitivity. According to the authors, the substrate registers normal as well as tangential forces, and the difference in these signals is essential to wearable electronics.
Key to this development is a flexible, stretchable and highly sensitive tactile sensor. The skin itself comprises a hybrid 3D structure of two layers of carbon nanotubes and graphene oxide anchored on a thin, porous polydimethylsiloxane layer. Its production is described further in the paper.
The resulting material can detect not only an individual’s pulse and discriminate between surface roughness, but also sense the slight touch of a feather. It can even monitor the human breath in real-time.
Quite how the cosmetics industry might employ such a substrate remains to be seen. Perhaps integrated with treatment regimens? Or in sensory or clinical testing? In any case, the heightened sensitivity it affords heightens the possibilities.