May 25, 2024

Imperceptible sensors made from ‘electronic spider silk’ can be printed directly on human skin

Posted by in categories: biological, cyborgs, sustainability, wearables

While wearable technologies with embedded sensors, such as smartwatches, are widely available, these devices can be uncomfortable, obtrusive and can inhibit the skin’s intrinsic sensations.

“If you want to accurately sense anything on a biological surface like skin or a leaf, the interface between the device and the surface is vital,” said Professor Yan Yan Shery Huang from Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, who led the research. “We also want bioelectronics that are completely imperceptible to the user, so they don’t in any way interfere with how the user interacts with the world, and we want them to be sustainable and low waste.”

There are multiple methods for making wearable sensors, but these all have drawbacks. Flexible electronics, for example, are normally printed on plastic films that don’t allow gas or moisture to pass through, so it would be like wrapping your skin in plastic film. Other researchers have recently developed flexible electronics that are gas-permeable, like artificial skins, but these still interfere with normal sensation, and rely on energy-and waste-intensive manufacturing techniques.

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