Super skin material may unlock the future of alternative energy and medical progressNovember 19, 2011
Researchers at Stanford University in California have created a new, elastic material that is being called “super skin.” Professor Zhenan Bao, leader of the research team responsible for the development, says that the material is a hyper-sensitive sensor comprised of nanotubes and silicon. The skin-like substance is extremely elastic and resilient, making it useful in a variety of applications. Bao notes that the material may have uses in the alternative energy field, as it can collect and distribute electricity.
The material is, essentially, a sensor that can register pressures of varying degrees and collect energy in a variety of forms. Bao speculates that the material can be used to improve the harvesting capabilities of solar panels. It may also improve the performance of hydrogen fuel cells by acting as a catalyst for chemical conversions.
While the material may hold promise for the alternative energy industry, its uses in the medical field may be more profound. Bao says that the material can be used as a synthetic replacement for skin. Given its hyper-sensitivity, the material can be used to give feeling to prosthetics, allowing amputees to recover range of motion as well as sensation.
The possibilities are quite vast for the new material, but Bao notes that any practical uses are not likely to come for several years. Testing of the material and how it can be used will be a time consuming process, but one that may produce amazing benefits for future generations.