Transparent, stretchable sensor made of carbon nanotubes. Photo: Stanford University.
Although much of the attention paid to carbon nanotubes concerns the strength of this particular form of carbon, the nanotube structure promises a variety of intriguing characteristics. Researchers at Stanford University have recently developed a skin-like material of carbon nanotubes that is transparent and stretchable. An outcome of Stanford professor Zhenan Bao’s search for a synthetic "super skin," the new elastic sensor may be stretched to over two times its original size without deformation, and can detect a wide variety of pressures.
The new material is comprised of single-walled carbon nanotubes that are deposited in a liquid suspension onto stretchable silicone. According to Stanford postdoctoral researcher Darren Lipomi, "This sensor can register pressure ranging from a firm pinch between your thumb and forefinger to twice the pressure exerted by an elephant standing on one foot. None of it causes any permanent deformation."
Potential applications include touch-sensitive computer displays, prosthetics, bandages, and robotic devices.