on March 4th, 2016

Scientists at Cornell University are putting their engineers to work with one of the most fascinating projects of the year. They have designed a stretchy, flexible skin that might fill out many different roles. The skin emits light like a cellphone displays a screen on a phone, or, at least, that’s what it looks like. They call it a hyper-elastic light-emitting capacitor (HLEC) and can be stretched up to twice the amount that previous stretchable fabrics were capable of. 

In their report on their creation, Chris Larson, Bryan Peele and their colleagues say, “The material could be highly stretched, could emit light, and could also sense internal and external pressure.” According to Gizmodo, one of these days, “we can wear it like sleeves or even cover entire robots with it.”

Rob Shepard, the assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Cornell University says that the skin might see robots change their colour and displays change their shape. On the significance of a robot changing its colour with the skin, Shepard said, “For one thing, when robots become more and more a part of our lives, the ability for them to have emotional connection with us will be important.” The medical advantages have been underlined as well. Patients’ pulses, temperatures and more could be reflected on the light emitting display. There are endless opportunities with stretchable, light-emitting displays. 

The group has released an article called  Highly Stretchable Electroluminescent Skin for Optical Signaling and Tactile Sensing detailing how they were able to design the fabric that can survive a strain of up to six times its original size. 

According to Cornell University’s website, the skin is created by sending electricity in between ” layers of transparent hydrogel electrodes sandwiching a dielectric (insulating) elastomer sheet”. The elastomer lights up and stores the electric charge and then can be stretched, and in turns makes it a ‘soft robot’. 

Shepard concedes that there is more work to do due to rubber evaporations on the soft robots during testing but is confident that the future of bendable displays is soon. 



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