A flexible polymer based smart skin

Introduction For some applications, it is essential to obtain the real time 2-D profiling of certain physical parameters such as temperature, force, pressure, and shear stress on a 3-D object. If the surface of the object is flat, one can use a monolithic MEMS device with large amounts of sensors. However, difficulties are encountered if the surface area is non-planar. This problem has been approached by using a skin made of polyamide connecting arrays of silicon based MEMS devices. The major failure in this mechanism was identified as the breakage of the thin silicon on the island periphery. Technology description Researchers at the University of Washington have invented a lightweight, flexible sensor or actuator array that is implemented in a fabric-like mesh. The material can also provide multifunctional sensing properties. Polydimethylsilane (PDMS) resin is used as the base composite material, which reduces the overall cost of production. A notable advantage of this technology is its ability to conform to the contour of an embedded structure. Another notable advantage is that a large sensor or actuator array can also be constructed on a single sheet configuration, which provides more consistent results compared to discrete solid based sensors. This material is clean room compatible. Therefore, the device can be constructed utilizing the batch process and precision of microfabrication. Business opportunity This invention has promising uses in numerous fields, such as biomechanics, infrastructure monitoring, robotics, and medicine. This technology has the potential to replace existing optical, acoustic, electric, magnetic and piezoelectric sensors. The worldwide Sensors Market is expected to reach $61 Billion by 2010.

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