Young scientists push the research frontiers of electronic skin technology
The EU-funded CONTEST (Collaborative network for training in electronic skin technology) project supported a pool of young researchers in the design, fabrication, characterisation and use of flexible and multifunctional electronic systems, particularly electronic or smart skin (e-skin). CONTEST trained 16 early-stage researchers and 4 experienced researchers, totalling 478 person-months of training opportunities via secondments. Researchers had access to state-of-the-art equipment. These efforts were supplemented with formal training courses in relevant fields and a wide variety of complementary training courses, colloquia and seminars. Scientific training covered key aspects of large-area flexible electronic systems that act as building blocks for obtaining e-skin. The main training and dissemination activities were summer schools, workshops and special sessions at international conferences. CONTEST explored research methodologies involving devices and circuits on flexible substrates. Both organic and inorganic semiconductor materials were investigated for this purpose. The team performed modelling and simulation work concerning flexible electronic devices, and published several conference papers to showcase results. Researchers investigated the development of sensors onto flexible substrates using both organic and inorganic semiconducting materials. Various strategies for integrating sensors and electronic components on flexible substrates were studied. Also explored were manufacturability and reliability issues. This work led to joint publications. Other research avenues explored the application of e-skin in robotic and human-environment interfaces, and pain in robotics. To this effect, the new use of e-skin to measure pain was an innovative development. These advances have been highlighted in several publications, and also resulted in public engagement activities at a world-class university in the United Kingdom. By leveraging the strength of the EU in the burgeoning field of large-area flexible electronics, CONTEST outcomes have the potential to trigger transformations in sectors as diverse as healthcare and robotics. A future that includes electronically enhanced smart skin may not be so distant.
Electronic skin technology, large-area electronics, CONTEST, smart skin, e-skin