Dr. Dong Looks to Produce the Next Generation of Electronic Skin

Dr. Dong Looks to Produce the Next Generation of Electronic Skin

ISE associate professor Jingyan Dong is part of the team who has received 1.3M in funds from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to find new ways of scalable nanomanufacturing stretchable electronics and sensors. Joining Dr. Dong on the three-person team are fellow NC State Engineering professors, Dr. Yong Zhu (principal investigator) and Dr. Brendan O’Connor from the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department.

STRETCHABLE ELECTRONICS

Electronic skin or e-skin, as an important type of stretchable electronics and sensors, are blurring the lines between electronics and human skin. As the name suggests, electronic skin can stretch and conform in response to motion, unlike circuit boards. This allows it to attach right to the human body or as part of a device that users wear, often called a wearable. Human skin can sense pressure and temperature, stretch, and can heal itself. By adding sensors, electronic skin aims to mimic these features in robotics, health applications, and prosthetic devices.

THE RESEARCH PROJECT

Researchers have been able to use nano-enabled technologies to make electronic skin, but only on a small scale. “All the stretchable devices demonstrations used manual, expensive and low-throughput fabrication methods,” explained Dr. Dong. However, to produce it on a large scale, manufacturers will need new methods of scalable manufacturing and integration of processing systems. This is where the NC State team steps in.

“There are two major challenges for creating nano-enabled stretchable electronics: integration of materials and devices, and scalable manufacturing,” said Dr. Dong. “Most of existing stretchable sensors/devices do not have the necessary integration and scale needed to realize useful functionality, e.g. a single pressure sensor vs. a sensor array necessary for e-skin. Realization of functional systems requires heterogeneous integration of many processing strategies.”

In their project, the team will address these needs and challenges by combining several scalable nanomanufacturing methods. The goal is to achieve high-performance, large-area stretchable systems.

Find detailed information about the team’s research and NSF grant at https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1728370.

EDUCATIONAL OUTREACH

All NSF grant proposals contain a description of how the researcher will promote several educational outreach opportunities. These include:

  • Teaching, training, and learning
  • Broaden participation of underrepresented minorities
  • Enhance infrastructure for research and education
  • Broad dissemination of results
  • Societal benefits

“We plan to involve students at different levels in this research, from graduate students to undergraduate students, to high school students,” explained Dr. Dong. “K-12 outreach efforts will be an integral part of this research. The team has developed a successful pathway for recruiting summer students from local high schools to promote STEM careers to K-12 students.”