Russian Scientists Develop Biocompatible Sensors for "Electronic Skin" Creation

news 29-Jun-2023 Technology

Russia Develops Components for Creating "Electronic Skin"

Scientists from MIET (National Research University of Electronic Technology) and Sechenov University have developed sensitive sensors made of biocompatible material that can be used to create "electronic skin" and, in the future, eliminate the need for invasive biopsy procedures, according to the researchers. The research findings have been published in Micromachines.

Skin is the largest organ of the human body, capable of perceiving complex environmental stimuli and responding to them. Experts have revealed that scientists worldwide are working on the development of "electronic skin" to simulate the sensory system of humans.

According to the scientists, this technology can be utilized in the creation of next-generation prosthetics, personalized medicine, soft robotics, artificial intelligence, and human-machine interfaces (such as displays, photovoltaics, and transistor technologies). It can also be applied in wearable monitoring systems, healthcare, biomedical applications, and regenerative medicine (for instance, for monitoring the movement of different body parts such as limbs, joints, chest, and muscle tissue deformation within postoperative therapy, among others).

By developing "electronic skin," researchers aim to faithfully replicate the functions of the human sensory system, with a particular focus on the highly sensitive mechanical receptors found at the tip of the tongue and fingertips, commonly known as tactile receptors. The sensitivity of these receptors lies within the pressure range of 20-50 Pa.

The university disclosed that numerous pressure sensors for robotics exist in the world with a sensitivity level of up to 10 Pa. However, they possess low biological compatibility and operational ranges that hinder their application in medical settings.

Scientists from the Institute of Biomedical Systems at the National Research University "MIET" and the Institute of Bionic Technologies and Engineering at Sechenov University have developed two groups of sensitive deformation sensors: tactile and stretchable.

According to the researchers, the developed sensors differ from known analogues in that they are based on biological or biocompatible materials, making them easy to apply and remove. They allow for high-precision detection of various forms of deformation, as well as surface shapes such as stretching, bending, convexity, and concavity, which expands their diagnostic capabilities.

"The sensitive element of the deformation sensor is a film less than 1 μm thick made of composite nanomaterial containing bovine serum albumin, microcrystalline cellulose, or polydimethylsiloxane, and a small additive (less than 1%) - carbon nanotubes," said Levani Ichkitidze, an associate professor at the Institute of Biomedical Systems at the National Research University "MIET."

He added that laser treatment significantly improves the mechanical and electrical properties of the film.

For tactile sensors, the researchers achieved sensitivity values of 20-60 Pa, and an intelligent gesture recognition system with an accuracy of approximately 94% has been implemented, according to the specialists.

"These sensors can be used in minimally invasive surgery: for knot tying using laparoscopic procedures, precise control of cutting instruments, collection of tactile data at the point of contact of a surgical instrument, tele-robotic operations, or diagnostics," explained Ichkitidze.

According to the authors, when applied in a new type of endoscope, the use of these sensors will make it possible to avoid the traumatic biopsy procedure (taking cells or tissues from the body for diagnostic purposes). This function will be performed by a tactile sensor in the form of a matrix consisting of numerous sensitive elements. Scientists are confident that such an instrument will be in high demand in medicine, especially in oncology.

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