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John O | May 2019

New sensor works with electronic skin and reacts to changes in light, heat, and touch

By Josh Perry, Editor


Inspired by nature, researchers from the Laboratory of Organic Electronics at Linköping University (Sweden) developed a new sensor that can be incorporated in electronic skin to measure changes in body temperature and react to changes in sunlight and warm touch.


Researchers created a new sensor that reacts to temperature, light, and touch.
(Thor Balkhed/Linköping University)


According to a report from the university, the sensor combines pyroelectric polymers (which create a voltage when heated or cooled) and thermoelectric gel (which creates voltage through a temperature differential). Researchers discovered that combining the materials reinforces the signal.


In addition, the sensor uses plasmons, which are formed when the electrons in nanoparticles of metals such as silver or gold to oscillate in union. Researchers demonstrated that gold electrodes perforated with nanoscale holes can efficiently absorb light thanks to plasmons.


“The absorbed light is subsequently converted to heat,” the article explained. “With such an electrode, a thin gold film with nanoholes, on the side that faces the sun, the sensor can also convert visible light rapidly to a stable signal.”


The research was recently published in Advanced Functional Materials. The abstract read:


“Sensors for monitoring temperature, heat flux, and thermal radiation are essential for applications such as electronic skin. While pyroelectric and thermoelectric effects are suitable candidates as functional elements in such devices, both concepts show individual drawbacks in terms of zero equilibrium signals for pyroelectric materials and small or slow response of thermoelectric materials.


“Here, these drawbacks are overcome by introducing the concept of thermodiffusion?assisted pyroelectrics, which combines and enhances the performance of pyroelectric and ionic thermoelectric materials. The presented integrated concept provides both rapid initial response upon heating and stable synergistically enhanced signals upon prolonged exposure to heat stimuli.


“Likewise, incorporation of plasmonic metasurfaces enables the concept to provide both rapid and stable signals for radiation?induced heating. The performance of the concept and its working mechanism can be explained by ion–electron interactions at the interface between the pyroelectric and ionic thermoelectric materials.”


Learn more about the sensor in the video below:

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