Highly stretchable electroluminescent skin for optical signaling and tactile sensing

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Science  04 Mar 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6277, pp. 1071-1074
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac5082

Make it stretch, make it glow

The skins of some cephalopods, such as the octopus, are highly flexible and contain color-changing cells. These cells are loaded with pigments that enable rapid and detailed camouflaging abilities. Larson et al. developed a stretchable electroluminescent actuator. The material could be highly stretched, could emit light, and could also sense internal and external pressure. A soft robot demonstrated these combined capabilities by stretching and emitting light as it moved.

Science, this issue p. 1071


Cephalopods such as octopuses have a combination of a stretchable skin and color-tuning organs to control both posture and color for visual communication and disguise. We present an electroluminescent material that is capable of large uniaxial stretching and surface area changes while actively emitting light. Layers of transparent hydrogel electrodes sandwich a ZnS phosphor-doped dielectric elastomer layer, creating thin rubber sheets that change illuminance and capacitance under deformation. Arrays of individually controllable pixels in thin rubber sheets were fabricated using replica molding and were subjected to stretching, folding, and rolling to demonstrate their use as stretchable displays. These sheets were then integrated into the skin of a soft robot, providing it with dynamic coloration and sensory feedback from external and internal stimuli.

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