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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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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

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