Fabrication of Soft Robotic Electronic Skin (E-Skin)

To design and develop stretchable e-skin for wearable and soft robotic applications, utilising novel digital manufacturing process.
Description of the Project: 

Soft e-skins have recently attracted considerable research interest due to their applications in soft robotics, prosthetics, and artificial skins. Remarkable advances in materials science, nanotechnology, and biotechnology have led to the development of various e-skins capable of detecting different external stimuli, such as strain, pressure, temperature, hydration, and biomarkers. Despite great progress have been made in the recent years, the fabrication of the majority of e-skins is complicated, and heavily relies on lab-scale procedures and micro/nanofabrication, making the development of large-area and multifunctional e-skins challenging. Additionally, e-skins are often made of planar polymeric substrate, preventing sufficient air circulation when attached to the skin and thus inducing irritation and discomfort. Overall, the design of multifunctional and breathable e-skins remains a grand challenge.

In this project, the PhD candidate will work on the design and development of soft e-skins using digital manufacturing process, including 3D/4D printing, electrospinning, laser micromachining, etc. The e-skins comprise of functional nanomaterials (e.g., nanoparticles, nanowires, and carbon nanotubes) incorporated into stretchable elastomers in the form of nanocomposite materials. The digital manufacturing process enables converting large-area and complex CAD models into multifunctional e-skins. Finally, the candidate will demonstrate the potential application of the developed e-skin in soft robotics and wearable artificial skins. 

Project number: 
120020
First Supervisor: 
University: 
Heriot-Watt University
Second Supervisor(s): 
First supervisor university: 
Heriot-Watt University
Essential skills and knowledge: 
The candidates should have a background in Mechanical Engineering, Materials Science, and Electrical Engineering, or a relevant discipline.
Desirable skills and knowledge: 
Knowledge of mechanics of materials. Experience in 3D printing, materials characterization, CAD, electromechanical tests, and materials molding/demolding process.
References: 

- Electronic skin: recent progress and future prospects for skin‐attachable devices for health monitoring, robotics, and prosthetics, Advanced Materials, 2019, 31, 1904765.

- Stretchable, skin‐mountable, and wearable strain sensors and their potential applications: a review, Advanced Functional Materials, 2016, 26, 1678-1698.

- Highly stretchable and sensitive strain sensor based on silver nanowire–elastomer nanocomposite, ACS Nano, 2014, 8, 5154-5163.

- Gas-permeable, multifunctional on-skin electronics based on laser-induced porous graphene and sugar-templated elastomer sponges, Advanced Materials, 2018, 30, 1804327.