A team of scientists and engineers working at the ETH Zurich and Caltech recently developed a new kind of artificial skin that is capable of detecting temperature changes with the help of a mechanism resembling to that used an organ that permits the pit vipers detect their prey. This substance can easily be grafted over prosthetic limbs so that these can keep their temperature restored and sense the changes around them. These can also be applied to the bandages that are used in first-aid so that it can alarm the health professionals about temperature enhancement which means the infection is on in the wounds.
When the team was making synthetic wood in petri dish, the team was led by Chiara Daraio from Caltech that created a substance that showed high electrical response to changes in temperature in lab. They found that the component that was responsible for temperature sensitivity was pectin which is a long-chain molecule already present in cell walls of plants. Daraio, who is also a professor of mechanical engineering and applied physics, adds, “Pectin is widely used in the food industry as a jellifying agent; it’s what you use to make jam. So it’s easy to obtain and also very cheap.”
Intrigued by this discovery, the team shifted all its focus to pectin and finally created a very thin and transparent flexible film constituted by water and pectin. Its thickness measures as less as 20mm. Pectin molecules present in this film bear a very feebly bonded a double-stranded structure that has calcium ions. As temperature rises, the bonds break down along with which the double strands “unzip” resulting into positively charged calcium ions. The decrement in electrical resistance comes either from enhancement in free calcium ions concentration or enhanced mobility. The electrical resistance goes down evenly across the material and these can be detected with the help of a multimeter that is connected with electrodes instilled in a film.
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