A new self-healing, recyclable ‘e-skin’

The e-skin has sensors to measure pressure, temperature, humidity and air flow.

Scientists have developed a new type of malleable, self-healing and fully recyclable “electronic skin” that has applications ranging from robotics and prosthetic development to better biomedical devices.

Electronic skin, known as e-skin, is a thin, translucent material that can mimic the function and mechanical properties of human skin, according to a study published in the journal Science Advances. The new e-skin has sensors embedded to measure pressure, temperature, humidity and air flow.

Novel network polymer

The technology has several distinctive properties, including a novel type of covalently bonded dynamic network polymer, known as polyimine. The polyimine has been laced with silver nanoparticles to provide better mechanical strength, chemical stability and electrical conductivity.

“What is unique here is that the chemical bonding of polyimine we use allows the e-skin to be both self-healing and fully recyclable at room temperature,” said Jianliang Xiao, from the University of Colorado Boulder in the US. “Given the millions of tons of electronic waste generated worldwide every year, the recyclability of our e-skin makes good economic and environmental sense.”

Another benefit of the new e-skin is that it can be easily conformed to curved surfaces like human arms and robotic hands by applying moderate heat and pressure to it without introducing excessive stresses.

“Let’s say you wanted a robot to take care of a baby,” said Wei Zhang from the University of Colorado Boulder. “In that case you would integrate e-skin on the robot fingers that can feel the pressure of the baby. The idea is to try and mimic biological skin with e-skin that has desired functions,” Zhang said.

To recycle the skin, the device is soaked into recycling solution, making the polymers degrade into smaller molecules like oligomers and monomers. “The recycled solution and nanoparticles can then be used to make new, functional e-skin,” said Dr. Xiao.

New Source of White Light

Now, pure white light can be produced using zinc, which is usually used to protect iron from rusting and in making brass.

The most commonly used method of producing white light is by mixing three primary colour–emitting phosphors in a proportionate composition. The existing methods of white-light production are energy-intensive and involve a long process.

But the new LED device requires only a single active layer of zinc-based metal–organic framework to get perfect white light under UV-excitation. And synthesis of the zinc framework is easy and highly stable and is not energy-intensive.

Scientists from Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science (IACS), Kolkata, synthesised the zinc-framework and the results were published in Journal of Materials Chemistry C.

“Zeolite, a rare earth mineral, is also used for producing white light. But this is not environment-friendly. Our LED device uses zinc, one of the most abundant metals on earth, to do the work,” explains Shyamal K Saha, Department of Materials Science at the Institute and corresponding author of the paper.

For the LED fabrication, indium tin oxide–coated glass was used as anode and vacuum evaporated aluminium as cathode. “The zinc-based framework is used as the active layer in which electrons are recombined to produce white light. The precursor materials used to make the LED are easily available and very much cost effective,” he adds. By checking with the International Commission on Illumination (CIE) standards, the researchers found that the emission was very close to that of ideal white light.

“The molecules were found to be very stable, and the whole crystalline network was stable up to 500 degree Celsius” says Saptasree Bose, Research Associate and co-author of the paper.

While commercially available white LEDs show slightly higher blue emission when compared with two other primary colours, the new white LED emits three primary colours proportionally to get perfect white light.

“We calculated the energy levels and the origin of photoluminescence. Emissions were obtained at three different wavelengths (384nm, 468nm, 570nm) under UV-excitation,” says Tuhina Mondal, PhD scholar at the institute and first author of the paper. “The final LED requires 8V, which is a bit higher than commercially available LEDs. We are working to minimise this.”

Biomarker for Alzheimer’s

Researchers at Bengaluru’s Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have identified a potential biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease. The biomarker shows up very early in the disease process and well before clinical and even pathological manifestation of the disease. They also found that it is possible to reverse the disease process if identified early.

Loss of dendritic spines from the surface of a nerve cell is already recognised as an early feature of Alzheimer’s. But the underlying mechanism behind this loss was not known. Now, a team led by Vijayalakshmi Ravindranath from the Centre for Neuroscience at IISc has deciphered it. The results were published in Journal of Neuroscience.

Projections on the dendrites called spines grow or shrink in response to activity-dependent modification and correlates with normal memory or memory deficit in animal models.

Filamentous actin (F-actin) is a cytoskeletal protein which is responsible for maintaining the shape of the spines. While F-actin is formed by polymerisation of monomeric globular-actin (G-actin), depolymerisation leads to loss of F-actin and, in turn, the loss of spines. F-actin is crucial for memory consolidation.

“In mice that are genetically altered to have Alzheimer’s, there was decreased F-actin protein level and increased G-actin protein level in animals as young as one month,” says Reddy Peera Kommaddi, a DBT-Ramalingaswami Fellow, from the Centre for Neuroscience at IISc and first author of the paper. The change in the ratio of F-actin and G-actin led to loss of spines. The decrease in F-actin level and loss of spine thereof translated into memory deficit when the animals turned two months old.

In contrast, the first signs of memory deficit in mice with Alzheimer’s is typically seen only when the animals are seven-eight months old. This is because the formation of protein clumps called amyloid plaques, which is one of the earliest clinical symptoms, happens at this stage.

Testing memory

To test the role of F-actin in behaviour response, two-month-old mice were exposed to mild foot shocks when kept in a conditioning chamber to bring about contextual fear conditioning. While normal mice placed in the chamber the next day they tend to freeze in anticipation of a shock, mice with Alzheimer’s did not exhibit this behaviour. “The Alzheimer mice did not associate the aversive event [electric shock] with context but simply kept exploring the chamber,” says Smitha Karunakaran from the Centre for Brain Research at IISc and a coauthor of the paper.

To test if decrease in F-actin protein and, in turn, the spine was responsible for deficit in memory a chemical was injected into Alzheimer mice to stabilise the level of F-actin. “A day after the injection, the F-actin level was restored to normal level and the Alzheimer mice showed increased freezing response just like healthy mice,” says Dr Karunakaran.

The researchers went a step further to test the role of F-actin level in behaviour response by injecting a chemical into four-month-old normal mice. Since the chemical inhibits actin polymerisation, there was a decrease in the F-actin level. And the mice, though healthy, displayed significant decrease in freezing response, just like Alzheimer’s mice would behave.

“These two experiments conclusively proved that loss in F-actin level leads to early behavioural changes that would eventually lead to Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr. Kommaddi.

The team checked the level of F-actin levels in cortical brain tissue samples of human subjects who had Alzheimer’s, mild cognitive impairment and normal cognition. There was “graded lowering” of F-actin levels from normal to mild cognitive to Alzheimer’s tissue samples.

The correlation seen between mouse model and human disease indicates the potential to use F-actin levels as a biomarker.

More from CES 2018

Here you’ll find a number of opinion pieces where we talk about the big trends at this year’s show, and what we think about them.

How Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa took over CES 2018

This was the year of the voice assistant at CES 2018, and Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa emerged the clear winners. Both assistants broke out of the smart speaker packages we’re used to seeing and found their way into new and exciting applications. Whether new Google Assistant-backed smart displays or soundbars with Alexa, there was no shortage of devices featuring the voice assistants at CES. This sets the stage for an even bigger fight throughout the year, and we’ve got a front row seat to the action.

Why the AT&T fallout shouldn’t hurt the big year Huawei is gearing up for

Huawei made a big splash by announcing the Mate 10 Pro is coming to the US, but its other big news wasn’t so positive. AT&T decided to drop its plans to launch the handset stateside right before the show, dealing what’s undoubtedly a major blow to the phone maker. But, all is not lost, according to Cameron Faulkner, and Huawei could come out of this with the last laugh.

What happened to all the cameras?

We seen a huge range of devices at CES 2018, but something has been bugging us: where are all the cameras? Sure, there have been some new camera announcements coming out of Las Vegas this year, but it seems the photographic industry has kept a low profile.

The smart kitchen needs to be modular or you risk your oven becoming redundant

At CES 2018 the potential of the smart kitchen is starting to be realized, but it brings its own problems. What do tech companies need to do to make smart kitchens a reality?

Acer and Asus are courting Alexa – does this mean Cortana’s dumped?

Microsoft’s Cortana was once pushed as the voice assistant for Windows devices, but with Acer and Asus wooing Alexa for its laptops at CES 2018, is this the end for Cortana?

Watch out consoles – PCs could soon be the center of the living room

Games consoles have traditionally been the go-to gaming devices to play on a big screen TV in the main room of your house, but that could all change. Nvidia has partnered up with a range of monitor makers to create some breathtaking Big Format Gaming Displays (BFGD) screens that feature 4K 120Hz HDR capabilities with integrated Nvidia G-Sync technology and Nvidia Shield functionality, all in giant 65-inch setups.

CES 2018 highlights

There’s been some truly amazing technology on show at CES 2018, but some gadgets have really stood out from the crowd for us. Below, you’ll find our pick of the very best tech at CES 2018.


The world’s first smartphone with an in-display fingerprint scanner

One of the most hotly rumored new smartphone features of the past few months, we’ve now finally seen an in-display finterprint scanner in action at CES 2018. And no, it’s not from a Samsung or Apple handset, but rather a phone by Chinese firm Vivo.

The Google Glass dream made real again, but with Amazon Alexa

It’s time to get psyched for AR again. That’s how we were left feeling after trying on the Vuzix Blade, augmented reality glasses that are excruciatingly close to achieving what Google set out to master years ago:  truly augmented reality that not only keeps you connected but tells you more about the world around you.

Nvidia BFGD screens

CES is all about making your jaw fall to the floor, and Nvidia’s Big Format Gaming Displays, or BFGD for short, do just that.



The Wall by Samsung

Samsung unveiled a massive 146-inch screen early on during CES that’s a modular TV, which means it can connect to other units to make an even bigger display. It’s also a MicroLED screen, made of pixels that, like OLED, produce their own light. That means individual pixels can be turned on and off, which in turn creates better contrast and ultimately better dynamic range.

65-inch rollable OLED TV

LG is previewing a 65-inch rollable OLED TV prototype that’s also a 4K screen, so when it’s not rolled up, you can enjoy premium resolution. We likely won’t see this screen on the market any time soon, but we were impressed enough to give it our CES Must See Award.

HTC Vive Pro

The tease came true: HTC unveiled a new, upgraded VR headset at CES 2018, the HTC Vive Pro. The headset has a 78% resolution increase over the current-gen Vive. It also features better audio performance with built-in headphones.

Lenovo Mirage Solo

To the surprise of no one, Lenovo unveiled its Google Daydream headset at CES. We tried it out for ourselves, and already it looks to be the best way to experience VR content on-the-go, thanks to a marriage of forward-thinking design and ambitious immersion features. It may all come down to the price, which Lenovo says will be under $400 (about £300 / AU$500).

Lenovo Miix 630

Lenovo’s first Snapdragon 835 Windows hybridimpressed us so much we awarded it our best laptop of CES. It looks and feels like an incredibly luxurious Windows tablet, with excellent portability and connectivity options. It promises incredible battery life.

View from the CES 2018 show floor

Brace yourselves, mechanical keyboards are heading to notebooks

Like mechanical keyboards but not their bulk? Then you may be interested in the new low-profile mechanical keyboard switch from German manufacturer Cherry. The switches are a full 35% flatter than their full-size counterparts, meaning they could be fitted into a notebook PC without creating a monstrosity.

Dolby Vision or HDR10+? Dolby wants you to have both

It’s Dolby Vision vs HDR10+, right? Not necessarily, Dolby Laboratories’ Senior Vice President of Consumer Entertainment, Giles Baker, tells us. In an interview with TechRadar, Baker mused about a future in which both systems coexist. Granted, he puts Dolby Vision on top, but he doesn’t want there to be bad blook, or worse, misinformation.

Root Robot

Connected toys that teach kids to code are nothing new, but the Root robot is a little bit different. Rather than simply teaching toddlers how to code through more easily-digestible reductions of what coding actually is and stopping there, it increases in complexity as your kids grow in understanding.

Root does this through a smartly-designed companion app that separates its coding concepts into three levels of understanding. Look for the Root robot in June for $199 (about £149, AU$259).

Misfit Path is one of the smallest hybrid smartwatches ever made

One of the best things about hybrid smartwatches is that they strike a more reasonable balance in size somewhere between a proper smartwatch and an analog smartwatch. Enter the Misfit Path, which puts forward an even smaller form factor than we’ve seen.

The Path has a bold, cohesive design that makes a statement without having to yell about it. Despite its diminutive size, there’s plenty of room for Misfit to add some nice touches, like the ever-so-slightly curved glass presentation on the Path’s face.


Huawei VR 2 grants you your very own portable IMAX screen

We’ve had an early look at the Huawei VR 2 and can tell you it’s sleek, comfortable, and can do something that others can’t: show off IMAX content in certified fashion. But that’s not all.

Huawei’s mobile VR headset has adopted a now-common design to guarantee comfort while playing or enjoying a film in VR for extended periods of time, much like the PSVR and new Lenovo Mirage Solo.

Doing what Amazon Echo can’t – be a true smart home hub

 Milo speaker

Two devices at CES 2018 are attempting to do what neither the Amazon Echo nor Google Home can do; be a true smart home hub. The first device is Milo, a $149 (about £120 / AU$200) speaker available sometime early this year.

Not to be outdone, ZLINK is a USB-sized gizmo that only costs $15 (about £10, AU$20) but can, too, transform your Echo speaker into a smart home control center.

This selfie-taking drone fits in a phone case

This compact and ingenious drone is called the AEE Selfly, a fitting name as it will snap your group or solo photos for you. It can also collapse down, Transformer-style, into a phone case, keeping your  iPhone 6, 7, 8 and Plus sizes, as well as the Samsung Galaxy 8 and Galaxy 8 Plus intact. Look for it in the first quarter of 2018 for $130 (around £95 / AU$165).

Kohler has created a smart bathroom range that you’ll actually want

Kohler’s new smart bathroom range (yes, it’s a thing) includes a shower called DTV+ that can have a number of different voice-activated presets, a bath that will fill with water at a specific temperature and stop on it’s own, and, naturally, an intelligent toilet.

Kodak just made its own cryptocurrency

Seemingly mundane when compared to what else is on show at CES 2018, Kodak’s news could be far more important. Kodak, alongside WENN Digital, announced its very own cryptocurrency called KODAKCoin that aims to protect photographer’s image rights and ensure they get paid for usage.

KODAKCoin (we like the name) will be backed up by a blockchain ledger and image rights platform called KODAKOne, which will allow photographers to securely register new and old work. Both amateur and professional photographers will be able to sign up to the scheme.

SteelSeries’ new gaming mouse helps keep your aim steady in the midst of frantic combat

SteelSeries has shown off its Rival 600 gaming mouseat CES 2018, and it has some pretty nifty features that could improve your performance in games.

The headline feature is a second optical sensor (most optical mice have just one) that tracks lift-off distance and helps reduce cursor jitter, making for a much smoother experience.

Coros Omni smart bike helmet lets you listen to tunes while still hearing the road

The Coros Omni smart bike helmet was shown off at CES 2018, and it’s a great example of how technology can enrich our lives while also keeping us safe. Using bone-conducting audio it can allow you to listen to music while you cycle, without distracting you or masking important environmental sounds (such as approaching traffic).

Amazon talks up Echo Buttons at CES

Amazon has been talking about its future plans for the Echo Buttons at CES 2018. While they are currently used for games, Amazon has some big ideas for them, and we may also see some more ‘Alexa Gadgets’ coming soon as well.

Game Boy is respawning thanks to Hyperkin

CES isn’t just about looking to the future, there are also retro-orientated bits of tech that look to the past as well, and apply a fresh coat of paint.

The Game Boy Ultra by Hyperkin is one of those gadgets, bringing Nintendo’s iconic handheld into the 21st century with some modern features to make it easy and comfortable to use. It’s not an official product, like the SNES Classic Mini, but the thought of being able to play classic games like Tetris, Super Mario Land and the original Pokemon series is very exciting!

Sandisk squeezes 1TB storage into a prototype thumb drive

SanDisk is a company well known for its storage devices, and at CES 2018 it showed that it was aiming to push the envelope further by presenting a USB thumb stick with 1TB of storage – the largest capacity yet for such a small drive.

It also includes a USB-C connection, which will mean incredibly fast data transfer rates when you plug it in to a compatible port on your laptop or PC, and it may even be compatible with smartphones. Its just a prototype at the moment, but we’re keen to see the final product come out.

Ring ups its security with array of new smart home devices

Ring, maker of the Ring Video Doorbell 2, has shown off some of its new home security devices at this year’s CES, hoping to be a big player when it comes to companies that can protect your home.

In Las Vegas it revealed the Stick Up Cam and Stick Up Cam Elite, two 1080p cameras with two-way audio for keeping an eye on your property, as well as a number of motion-activated lights.

Polk Audio Command Bar is a soundbar with integrated Alexa support

Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant, continues its strong showing at this year’s CES by turning up in Polk Audio’s new Command Bar soundbar. This will allow you to use your voice to change the volume, or to perform standard Alexa tasks, such as stream music of your choice, or control connected smart home devices.

The Command Bar’s love affair with Amazon hardware continues with four Alexa control buttons (that are also found on Amazon Echo devices), as well as a specially-designed space to install an Amazon Fire TV device.

Even if you’ve not bought into the Amazon ecosystem, it looks like there should still be lots to like about the Command Bar, with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a wireless 6.5-inch subwofer, two HDMI 2.0b ports (which support 4K, HDR, HDR 10 and Dolby Vision and lots more.

An in-display fingerprint sensor is here

Not Apple, not Samsung but Vivo has brought about in-display fingerprint sensors, an accomplishment that could revolutionize our devices. The China-based company’s device works through a “Clear ID” optical sensor from Synaptics that’s hidden below the phone’s OLED display.

Scanning between the OLED display’s pixels, it effectively does the same job as the old direct-contact fingerprint displays (if a tad more slowly). Can Vivo beat the Samsung Galaxy S9, which is rumored to have an in-display sensor, to the punch? We’ll find out soon!

Casio’s new smartwatches recharges with the sun

If you’re the sort of person that likes to go on long treks into the truly empty parts of the world, you’ll probably want to pick up the Casio G-Shock Rangeman GPR B-1000, which comes with a built-in standalone GPS system. Even niftier: it’s solar powered, and you can harness that solar power in the middle of the wilderness to recharge the built-in GPS whenever and wherever you need it.

BlackBerry’s new shade

There’s a new BlackBerry on the block, but it’s not a whole new handset, for now. Rather, it’s a new color as the iconic brand has announced the BlackBerry KeyOne Bronze Edition. In addition to the new color, the metallic phone also has dual-SIM. While we don’t know the cost or a release date, BlackBerry tells us we can look for new phones from the company this year, including ones with keyboards.

What’s more, the BlackBerry Motion will arrive in the US and Canada on Friday, January 12 with an all-touch form factor that ditches the brand’s iconic physical keys in favor of more screen. This marks the Motion’s arrival in the two countries, and it will be unlocked from Amazon and Best Buy for $499.99.

Huawei Mate 10 Pro launching in the US next month

Planting its flag in US soil, Huawei announced the Mate 10 Pro will be available for pre-order in the US on February 4 via its retail partners. The phone will be available on February 18 to purchase for $799, but there’s a good reason to pre-order, as you’ll get a free $150 gift card to whichever retailer you purchase through in the lead-up to its release.

New point-and-shoot VR cameras

Google and the Daydream team have announced a slew of VR180 cameras, designed to make capturing content for VR just that much easier. These aren’t 360-degree cameras, despite housing two lenses. This is to capture depth rather than a full 360 view. Look for cameras from Yi Technology, Lenovo (pictured), LG and Panasonic when the snappers are ready for consumers.

Consumer Electronics Show 2018

Every January, Las Vegas plays host to CES, the biggest technology show in the world, that tech companies and startups from around the globe choose as a platform to unveil and showcase their latest and ‘greatest’ inventions. Hundreds and thousands of attendees throng the event, to get a glimpse of the best from the world of technology. Here are six of the coolest gadgets that were showcased this year.


LG InstaView ThinQ refrigerator

The South Korean electronics giant has introduced an updated version of its smart refrigerator that was showcased at CES 2017. It features a 29-inch touchscreen on the door that becomes transparent if users knock on it twice and Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant that keeps a tab on the food stored inside. However, for 2018, LG has added more smart tech to its refrigerator which is now capable of using artificial intelligence to interact with other ThinQ-branded LG kitchen appliances.


Samsung 146-inch television ‘The Wall’

Samsung has created a truly gigantic TV for home use that measures a staggering 10 feet in width and almost 6 feet in height. The monster-sized television, appropriately named “The Wall”, features a different technology than traditional LED-based LCD TVs. It uses something called MicroLED which is based on Samsung’s Cinema Screen technology, making it modular in design. Meaning, it can be made even bigger than its current 146-inch size if the user so desires. Samsung is yet to announce its resolution, but it’s highly unlikely to be anything but 4K.

MyLiFi Lamp

It might look like a normal, well-designed, LED desk lamp, but in fact, it is a device that provides secure, wireless, radio wave-free Internet connection to nearby gadgets. Introduced by a French company named Oledcomm, the Lamp uses a technology called Li-Fi which beams internet via infrared light. The company claims that the lamp is capable of providing faster speeds than Wi-Fi and promises to be hack-proof.

L’Oreal UV sensor

The cosmetic giant arrived at CES this year with a thumbnail-worn smart device that measures less than two millimetres thick and can help prevent skin cancer for its wearers. Called UV Sense, the tiny wearable device runs without battery and can connect with any NFC-enabled smartphone. The sensor is designed to monitor sun exposure and alert the user on detecting excess exposure to harmful UV rays via an accompanying smartphone app.


IotaTrax personal transporter

Personal transport gadgets like hoverboards and boosted boards had became a huge hit a couple of years back, but have run out of steam lately. But the original creator of Hoverboard, named Shane Chen, has returned with another compact mobility device, and it has more real-world usability. The compact, self-balancing transporter called IotaTrax has a range of 8 miles and max speed of 10 mph. A gyro sensor and accelerometer work together to help it maintain balance.

NVIDIA Big Format Gaming Displays

A giant 4K display measuring 65 inches diagonally and created specifically for PC gamers was unveiled by nVidia. The Big Format Gaming Display, or simply BFGD, comes with a ton of embedded features such as NVIDIA’s own G-Sync technology, Shield functionality for access to streaming services and a high refresh rate of 120Hz. All these impressive specs help differentiate it from normal TV sets.

Honorable mentions:

Petrics smart pet bed – It is the world’s first smart bed for pets which comes with its own health ecosystem and a long list of intelligent features.

Dynafocals by PH Technical Labs – Named as CES 2018 Innovation Awards Honoree, the Dynafocals is a pair of smart eyeglasses with dynamic focus that changes the focus for the user based on what is viewed.

Cosmo Bike – It is a small multifunction smart light that attaches magnetically to bike helmets and is capable of alerting friends and family in the event of an accident.

E-skin for motion monitoring

An electronic skin (e-skin) that simultaneously senses pressure and strain has been fabricated using a PVC-free pencil eraser that has been sliced into a thin layer and deposited with multi-walled carbon nanotubes on either side. The carbon nanotubes are the main sensing elements of the device. The low-cost, easily scalable sensor fabricated by a two-member team led by Prof. Sushmee Badhulika at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Hyderabad may find applications in flexible electronics and medical diagnostics.

“The device can be used for human motion monitoring in the case of elderly and infants. The e-skin is sensitive… it can sense even a gentle touch,” says Prof. Badhulika from the Department of Electrical Engineering at IIT Hyderabad. The results were published in the journal Nanotechnology.

“The signal from the device can be interfaced with a microcontroller and the signal can be taken from the sensor to a smartphone using wireless technology,” she says.

The researchers tested the sensor for potential application as an e-skin by integrating it on the forefinger joint, wrist, neck and elbow and subjected it to stretching and compression. The sensor showed good sensitivity to both stretching and compression, and showed repeatability. The sensor was tested for both soft and hard touch where pressure was applied by a human hand. “The sensor showed repeatability for distinct pressure touches of the human hand,” she says.

Making of the sensor

The PVC-free pencil eraser is sliced and cut to optimal dimensions and optimised amount of multi-walled carbon nanotubes are pressed on the layer using a rolling pin and a pre-compaction mechanical press. The rolling pin is used to get a uniform thin film with carbon nanotubes deposited on the film to get a desired initial resistance. The film is further pressed using a mechanical press.

“Depositing the multi-walled carbon nanotubes using a solvent-free rolling pin method is done manually on the hydrophobic eraser substrate. So there could be variation from user to user.

The mechanical press is used for standardising the pressure applied for depositing the carbon nanotubes and achieve repeatability,” says Parikshit Sahatiya from the Department of Electrical Engineering at IIT Hyderabad and first author of the paper.

Both the sides of the eraser are patterned with carbon nanotubes so that the film together with the carbon nanotubes acts as a capacitor. Silver paste is applied to make a metal contact to draw the signal from the device.

When pressure is applied the thickness of the film decreases and the distance between the two carbon nanotube layers that behave like metal plates gets reduced. This increases the capacitance.

When the e-skin is stretched the distance between carbon nanotubes increases and therefore the resistance increases. But when the e-skin is compressed the distance between carbon nanotubes decreases and so the resistance reduces. “Basically the e-skin acts as a resistance sensor when subjected to strain and capacitive sensor when subjected to pressure,” says Prof. Badhulika.

Top science stories of 2017

AI beats humans at poker….

In January, Libratus, an artificial intelligence computer created by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University defeated four top class poker players.

In March, “AlphaGo”, Google-run artificial intelligence (AI), defeated legendary Go player Lee Se-dol.

In December, researchers from Cornell University said that “AlphaZero”, another Google-run artificial intelligence (AI) programme,won or drew all 100 chess games that it played.

Habitable earth-size planets

In February, NASA announced that its Space Telescope Spitzer discovered seven Earth-sized planets around a star called TRAPPIST-1. Three of these planets were reported to be in the habitable zone where liquid water can be found.

March for science

On April 22, Earth Day, thousands of people in over 600 cities took to the streets to draw attention to issues such as ‘science policy’ and ‘evidence-based policymaking’. The Indian version of the march happened on August 9 in over 20 cities with its organisers demanding, among other things, an allocation of at least 3% of GDP toward science research and enactment of policies based on “evidence-based” science.

Homo sapiens are older than imagined

In June, a study published in Nature claimed that Homo sapiens are way older than was previously imagined. The researchers studied the facial, mandibular and dental morphology of fossil remains from Morocco and arrived at the conclusion that our species is 315,000 years old.

New particle from CERN

In July, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) reported the observation of a new particle. Named Xicc++, the new particle contains two charm quarks and one up quark. (Quarks are the building blocks that make up protons and neutrons.) The new particle, almost four times heavier than the proton, was found to live for a very short time (for a million billionths of a second).

Ice shelf breaks, largest iceberg emerges

In July, scientists from Project MIDAS, a UK-based Antarctic research project, reported the formation of a one-trillion tonne iceberg. They said that the iceberg broke off from the Larsen C shelf in Antarctica and is one of the biggest ever recorded.

Neutron stars merge

LIGO’s two detectors in the US and their European counterpart Virgo picked up an unusual signal in August that lasted about 100 seconds — longer than the signal caused by black hole collisions. Gravitational waves and light emission were observed from the same cosmic event, proving that it was caused by a collision of two dying stars called neutron stars.

Gene editing and how

A group of international scientists used a gene editing tool called CRISPR-Cas9 and repaired a mutation in a human embryo. The group targeted a gene called MYBPC3 whose mutations can cause heart problems- hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The results were published in Nature in August.

End of the Cassini mission

In September, NASA ended the Cassini-Huygens mission, which was started in 1997 to study Saturn. In its 20 years, Cassini helped researchers in understanding Saturn’s surface, its rings and its moons.

Spotting the gravitational waves

When two black holes collide, they cause ripples that spread out across the space, just like ripples in a lake. These gravitational waves were detected by observatories on Earth— the LIGO and VIRGO. This year’s Nobel prize was awarded to the three founders of LIGO. The first detection of the wave was in 2015, and the latest was made in September 2017.

Cryo-electron microscopy

In October, the Nobel Prize for Chemistry was awarded to three scientists who worked on the cryo-electron microscopy. In this technique, biological molecules are frozen and their structures are studied using electron beams. The electrons hit the molecules and scatter, which are then caught by a detector to analyse the structure of the molecule.

An interstellar visitor

In October, the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) in the US, spotted a cigar-shaped rocky object, our first visitor from another solar system.

The circadian rhythm mechanism

The Nobel Prize for Medicine this year was awarded to scientists who studied the genes and the proteins in the body responsible for the circadian rhythm. The level of proteins, named PER (period) and TIM (timeless), change over the daily 24-hour cycle and keep the body’s biological clock running.

IBM’s quantum computer

In November, IBM announced the development of a large and powerful quantum computer capable of handling 50 qubits (quantum bits). According to IBM, this advancement will allow “high-fidelity quantum operations,” making computers faster and more efficient than the current supercomputers.

Earth-like solar system

In December, NASA used Google’s AI to discover two new exoplanets—Kepler 90i and Kepler 80g. The discovery of the eighth planet in the system Kepler 90 means we now know of one more solar system with eight planets.

Photovoltaic road tested in China

China successfully tested its first photovoltaic highway based on home-grown technology in the country’s eastern Shandong province on Thursday, according to reports from Xinhua. The road has wireless charging systems for electric vehicles.

The road is constructed using solar panels which have a thin sheet of clear concrete on top of them, protecting the surface.

The panels were built to transfer energy to electric vehicles passing on top of them.

The one-kilometre segment of solar-powered highway covers a surface area of 5,875 sq.m. The stretch has three layers. At the bottom is an insulator to prevent moisture from getting to the photovoltaic devices in the middle layer, and on top is the layer of transparent concrete.

The tested segment of highway can generate 817.2 KW of power and is expected to generate 1 million KW hours of electricity each year. The electricity generated will be connected to China’s national power grid.

China has become the second country to construct a photovoltaic highway. France was introduced the world’s first photovoltaic road fitted with solar panels in late 2016.

Smart highway and smart road are terms for a number of different proposals to incorporate technologies into roads for generating solar energy, for improving the operation of autonomous cars, for lighting, and for monitoring the condition of the road.


ISS crew to experience New Year’s Eve 16 times?(!!!)

Space lab orbits the earth once every 90 minutes.

As the astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) orbit the earth once every 90 minutes, they will experience New Year’s Eve 16 times, NASA has pointed out.

That is 16 sunrises and sunsets while circling 402.3 km above the earth.

The six astronauts will go into the last weekend of 2017 with light duties and family conferences before taking the New Year’s Day off.

The current crew on the orbital laboratory comprises three U.S. astronauts, two Russian cosmonauts and a Japanese astronaut.

Ahead of the New Year, the astronauts are conducting life science studies to help mission doctors keep astronauts healthier and stronger while living in outer space. Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai took his turn on the exercise bike on Thursday for a study researching physical exertion in space.

Doctors measure the astronauts’ breathing and other parameters during exercise to ensure they have the strength to perform strenuous activities such as space walks and even emergency procedures.

Flight Engineer Scott Tingle of NASA was harvesting plants for the Advanced Plants Experiment-05 (APEX) and stowing the botany samples in a science freezer for further analysis, a NASA blog post said.

Scientists are exploring how plants respond to microgravity and observing molecular and genetic changes.

Big Bubble Theory

Solar system was born in a shell made of material flung off a giant star, says study.

Scientists have said that the solar system could have formed in the bubbles produced by a giant, long-dead star, which was 40 to 50 times the size of the sun.

Despite the many impressive discoveries humans have made about the universe, scientists are yet to come to a consensus about the birth story of the solar system.

The prevailing theory is that the solar system formed billions of years ago near a supernova.

But the new scenario, explained in a paper in the Astrophysical Journal, begins with a giant type of star called a Wolf-Rayet star.

They burn the hottest of all stars, producing tonnes of elements which are flung off the surface in an intense stellar wind.

As the Wolf-Rayet star sheds its mass, the stellar wind ploughs through the material around it, forming a bubble structure with a dense shell.

“The shell of such a bubble is a good place to produce stars,” because dust and gas become trapped inside where they can condense into stars, said study co-author Nicolas Dauphas, Professor at University of Chicago in the U.S.

The researchers estimate that 1% to 16% of all sun-like stars could be formed in such stellar nurseries.

The study addresses a nagging cosmic mystery about the presence of two elements in our solar system compared to the rest of the galaxy.

Meteorites left over from the early solar system suggests there was a lot of aluminium-26. In addition, studies increasingly suggest the solar system had less of the isotope iron-60.

This brings scientists up short, because supernovae produce both isotopes.

“It begs the question of why one was injected into the solar system and the other was not,” said co-author Vikram Dwarkadas from the University of Chicago.

This brought the scientists to Wolf-Rayet stars, which release lots of aluminium-26, but no iron-60.

As for the fate of the giant Wolf-Rayet star, the researchers believe that its life ended long ago, likely in a supernova explosion or a direct collapse to a black hole.