Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

User-interactive electronic skin for instantaneous pressure visualization

Abstract

Electronic skin (e-skin) presents a network of mechanically flexible sensors that can conformally wrap irregular surfaces and spatially map and quantify various stimuli1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12. Previous works on e-skin have focused on the optimization of pressure sensors interfaced with an electronic readout, whereas user interfaces based on a human-readable output were not explored. Here, we report the first user-interactive e-skin that not only spatially maps the applied pressure but also provides an instantaneous visual response through a built-in active-matrix organic light-emitting diode display with red, green and blue pixels. In this system, organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) are turned on locally where the surface is touched, and the intensity of the emitted light quantifies the magnitude of the applied pressure. This work represents a system-on-plastic4,13,14,15,16,17 demonstration where three distinct electronic components—thin-film transistor, pressure sensor and OLED arrays—are monolithically integrated over large areas on a single plastic substrate. The reported e-skin may find a wide range of applications in interactive input/control devices, smart wallpapers, robotics and medical/health monitoring devices.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Concept and structure of the user-interactive e-skin.
Figure 2: Electrical characterization of carbon nanotube TFTs and OLEDs.
Figure 3: Flexible full-colour AMOLED display using carbon nanotube TFTs.
Figure 4: Pressure response of a standalone OLED with laminated PSR.
Figure 5: User-interactive e-skin.

References

  1. Someya, T. et al. A large-area, flexible pressure sensor matrix with organic field-effect transistors for artificial skin applications. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 101, 9966–9970 (2004).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Someya, T. et al. Conformable, flexible, large-area networks of pressure and thermal sensors with organic transistor active matrixes. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 102, 12321–12325 (2005).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Wagner, S. et al. Electronic skin: Architecture and components. Physica E 25, 326–334 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Sekitani, T. & Someya, T. Stretchable, large-area organic electronics. Adv. Mater. 22, 2228–2246 (2010).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Takei, K. et al. Nanowire active-matrix circuitry for low-voltage macroscale artificial skin. Nature Mater. 9, 821–826 (2010).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Mannsfeld, S. C. B. et al. Highly sensitive flexible pressure sensors with microstructured rubber dielectric layers. Nature Mater. 9, 859–864 (2010).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Kim, D. H. et al. Epidermal electronics. Science 333, 838–843 (2011).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Lipomi, D. J. et al. Skin-like pressure and strain sensors based on transparent elastic films of carbon nanotubes. Nature Nanotech. 6, 788–792 (2011).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Takahashi, T., Takei, K., Gillies, A. G., Fearing, R. S. & Javey, A. Carbon nanotube active-matrix backplanes for conformal electronics and sensors. Nano Lett. 11, 5408–5413 (2011).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Tee, B. C-K., Wang, C., Allen, R. & Bao, Z. An electrically and mechanically self-healing composite with pressure- and flexion-sensitive properties for electronic skin applications. Nature Nanotech. 7, 825–831 (2012).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Lu, N., Lu, C., Yang, S. & Rogers, J. Highly sensitive skin-mountable strain gauges based entirely on elastomers. Adv. Funct. Mater. 22, 4044–4050 (2012).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Pang, C. et al. A flexible and highly sensitive strain-gauge sensor using reversible interlocking of nanofibres. Nature Mater. 11, 795–801 (2012).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Rogers, J. A., Someya, T. & Huang, Y. Materials and mechanics for stretchable electronics. Science 327, 1603–1607 (2010).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Kim, D. H., Xiao, J., Song, J., Huang, Y. & Rogers, J. A. Stretchable, curvilinear electronics based on inorganic materials. Adv. Mater. 22, 2108–2124 (2010).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Sekitani, T. et al. Organic nonvolatile memory transistors for flexible sensor arrays. Science 326, 1516–1519 (2009).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. Park, S-I. et al. Printed assemblies of inorganic light-emitting diodes for deformable and semitransparent displays. Science 325, 977–981 (2009).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Wang, C., Takei, K., Takahashi, T. & Javey, A. Carbon nanotube electronics—moving forward. Chem. Soc. Rev. 42, 2592–2609 (2013).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Arnold, M. S., Green, A. A., Hulvat, J. F., Stupp, S. I. & Hersam, M. C. Sorting carbon nanotubes by electronic structure using density differentiation. Nature Nanotech. 1, 60–65 (2006).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Cao, Q. et al. Medium-scale carbon nanotube thin-film integrated circuits on flexible plastic substrates. Nature 454, 495–500 (2008).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. Sun, D. et al. Flexible high-performance carbon nanotube integrated circuits. Nature Nanotech. 6, 156–161 (2011).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. Cao, Q. & Rogers, J. A. Ultrathin films of single-walled carbon nanotubes for electronics and sensors: A review of fundamental and applied aspects. Adv. Mater. 21, 29–53 (2009).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  22. Zhang, J. et al. Separated carbon nanotube macroelectronics for active matrix organic light-emitting diode displays. Nano Lett. 11, 4852–4858 (2011).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. Tang, C. W. & VanSlyke, S. A. Organic electroluminescent diodes. Appl. Phys. Lett. 51, 913–915 (1987).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  24. Hussain, M., Choa, Y-H. & Niihara, K. Conductive rubber materials for pressure sensors. J. Mater. Sci. Lett. 20, 525–527 (2001).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  25. Shimojo, M., Namiki, A., Ishikawa, M., Makino, R. & Mabuchi, K. A tactile sensor sheet using pressure conductive rubber with electrical-wires stitched method. IEEE Sensors J. 4, 589–596 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. McAlpine, M. C., Ahmad, H., Wang, D. & Heath, J. R. Highly ordered nanowire arrays on plastic substrates for ultrasensitive flexible chemical sensors. Nature Mater. 6, 379–384 (2007).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  27. Tian, B. Z. Three-dimensional, flexible nanoscale field-effect transistors as localized bioprobes. Science 329, 830–834 (2010).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  28. Ko, H. C. et al. A hemispherical electronic eye camera based on compressible silicon optoelectronics. Nature 454, 748–753 (2008).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  29. Ramuz, M., Tee, B. C-K., Tok, J. B-H. & Bao, Z. Transparent, optical, pressure sensitive artificial skin for large-area stretchable electronics. Adv. Mater. 24, 3223–3227 (2012).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  30. Yamada, T. et al. A stretchable carbon nanotube strain sensor for human-motion detection. Nature Nanotech. 6, 296–301 (2011).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

This work was funded by DARPA/DSO Maximum Mobility and Manipulation. OLED processing was performed as a user project in the Molecular Foundry, supported by the Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, of the US Department of Energy under Contract No. DE-AC02-05CH11231. Some of the materials and optical characterization was performed in the Electronic Materials Laboratory at LBNL, which is supported by the Director, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Materials Sciences and Engineering Division, of the US Department of Energy under Contract No. DE-AC02-05CH11231. A.J. acknowledges support from the World Class University programme at Sunchon National University.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

C.W. and A.J. conceived the idea and designed the experiments. C.W. carried out the device fabrication and electrical characterization. C.W., D.H., Z.Y., J.P., T.C. and B.M. contributed to the OLED fabrication and characterization. K.T. helped with the shadow mask fabrication. C.W., Z.Y. and A.J. contributed to analysing the data. C.W. and A.J. wrote the paper and all authors provided feedback.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ali Javey.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Information (PDF 1404 kb)

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Movie S1 (MOV 11775 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Wang, C., Hwang, D., Yu, Z. et al. User-interactive electronic skin for instantaneous pressure visualization. Nature Mater 12, 899–904 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nmat3711

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/nmat3711

This article is cited by

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing