Scientists from the University of California at Berkeley have developed a very thin electronic skin or e-skin. It is a sensor network on flexible plastic that reacts to touch with light.

The more pressure that is applied to the area, the brighter the organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) will shine.

Associate professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences Ali Javey said “With the interactive e-skin, we have demonstrated an elegant system on plastic that can be wrapped around different objects to enable a new form of human-machine interfacing.”

e-skin that lights up when touched

Shown is a fully fabricated 16×16 pixel e-skin that lights up when touched.


The e-skin is made up of a thin-film transistor, a pressure sensor and OLEDs, which have been arranged in a 16×16 matrix of red, blue and green lights. Researchers say it can be laminated onto any surface. It has been developed based on Javey’s previous research with semiconductor nanowire transistors and is described in a paper published in Nature Materials.


There is the obvious assumption that this type of technology will be used on robots, especially seeing as DARPA supported the research. However it could also be used for touch-screen wallpapers and dashboard displays to help control cars.

“I could also imagine an e-skin bandage applied to an arm as a health monitor that continuously checks blood pressure and pulse rates,” study co-author Chuan Wang said in the release.

Ali Javey has started to modify the e-skin sensor so that it can react to changes in temperature and light. Other skins can already heal themselves so maybe it won’t be too long before androids don’t need us at all.

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