According to National University of Singapore assistant professor Benjamin Tee, “One of the challenges with many self-healing materials today is that they are not transparent and they do not work efficiently when wet.” This means that up until now, these materials weren’t appropriate for applications such as touchscreens. With that in mind, he and his team have taken inspiration from jellyfish and began to work on an artificial material that could be touch-sensitive as well as self-healing.
What they came up with is a fluorocarbon-based substance which is not only conductive, but can heal both in dry conditions and under water — even in sea water, and in acidic or alkaline environments. After a breakage, this substance recovers electrical conductivity within a minute, and is back to full strength within a few hours — or days in some cases.
Importantly, the soft material neither swells in a wet environment, nor does it dry out when on land. It can stretch to up to 20 times its original length, and is touch-sensitive and 3D-printable. Given such advantages, the skin-like material opens up a wide variety of use cases. Perhaps some day we’ll use such a material affixed to our forearms as an interface device, controlling things from the couch, shower, or swimming pool!