Human skin’s natural ability to feel sensations such as touch and temperature difference is not easily replicated with artificial materials in the research lab. That challenge did not stop a Saudi Arabian research team from using cheap household items to make a “paper skin” that mimics many sensory functions of human skin.
The artificial skin may represent the first single sensing platform capable of simultaneously measuring pressure, touch, proximity, temperature, humidity, flow, and pH levels.
Human skin and hair can simultaneously feel pressure, temperature, humidity, strain, and flow—great inspirations for applications such as artificial skins for burn and acid victims, robotics, and vehicular technology. Previous efforts in this direction use sophisticated materials or processes. Chemically functionalized, inkjet printed or vacuum-technology-processed papers albeit cheap have shown limited functionalities. Thus, performance and/or functionalities per cost have been limited. Here, a scalable “garage” fabrication approach is shown using off-the-shelf inexpensive household elements such as aluminum foil, scotch tapes, sticky-notes, napkins, and sponges to build “paper skin” with simultaneous real-time sensing capability of pressure, temperature, humidity, proximity, pH, and flow. Enabling the basic principles of porosity, adsorption, and dimensions of these materials, a fully functioning distributed sensor network platform is reported, which, for the first time, can sense the vitals of its carrier (body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and skin hydration) and the surrounding environment.