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Rubber camouflage skin displays smart and stretchy behavior

June 18, 2022

,nanoworks news) The skin of cephalopods, such as octopuses, squid and cuttlefish, is stretchy and smart, which contributes to these creatures’ ability to sense and respond to their surroundings. A Penn State-led collaboration has harnessed these properties to create artificial skin that mimics both the elasticity and neurological functions of cephalopod skin, with potential applications for neurorobotics, skin prosthetics, prostheses and more.

Led by Kunjiang Yu, Dorothy Quigal Career Development Associate Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics and Biomedical Engineering, the team published their findings Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (“Artificial neuromorphic cognitive skins based on distributed biaxially stretchable elastomeric synaptic transistors”). A Penn State-led collaboration developed a prosthetic skin made entirely of rubber that mimics both the elasticity and cognitive characteristics found in octopuses and other cephalopods. (image: Volodymyr Ivanenko)

Cephalopod skin is a soft organ that can tolerate complex deformations, such as expansion, contraction, bending and twisting. It also has cognitive sensory-and-feedback functions that enable the skin to light, react and camouflage its wearer.

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While artificial skins with these physical or these cognitive abilities have existed before, according to Yu, so far no one has demonstrated both properties simultaneously – the essential combination for advanced, artificially intelligent bioelectronic skin devices.

“Although many artificial camouflage skin devices have recently been developed, they lack significant non-centralized neuromorphic processing and cognition capabilities, and materials with such capabilities lack robust mechanical properties,” Yu said. “Our recently developed soft synaptic devices have achieved brain-inspired computing and artificial nervous systems that are sensitive to touch and light maintain these neuromorphic functions when stretched biaxially.”

To simultaneously achieve both smartness and stretchability, the researchers fabricated synaptic transistors entirely from elastomeric materials. These rubberized semiconductors work in a similar way to neural connections, exchanging important messages for system-wide needs, impervious to physical changes in the system’s structure.

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According to Yu, the key to creating a soft skin device with both cognitive and stretching capabilities was using elastomeric rubbery materials for each component. This approach resulted in a device that could successfully demonstrate and maintain neural synaptic behaviors, such as image sensing and recall, even when stretched, folded and poked up to 30% beyond a natural resting state. have gone

“With the recent boom of smart skin devices, implementing neuromorphic functions in these devices opens the door towards more powerful biomimetics in the future,” Yu said. “This method can be extrapolated to many other areas to implement cognitive functions in smart skin devices, including neuromorphic computing wearables, prostheses, soft neurorobotics, and skin prosthetics for next-generation intelligent systems.”

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