The magnetic skin can be used in laboratory settings, effectively preventing contamination of equipment. (Image Credit: KAUST)

 

Researchers from Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) have developed a “magnetic skin” that can remotely control switches or open doors with the blink of an eye or the wave of a hand. The team’s research is published in the journal Advanced Materials Technologies.

 

The lightweight artificial skin is made of a very flexible biocompatible polymer matrix that has been mixed in with magnetized microparticles. By using the simple and inexpensive fabrication process, it’s produced in thin sheets that can stick to the wearer’s skin. “It can be customized into any shape and color, making it imperceptible or even stylish,” says KAUST Ph.D. student, Abdullah Almansouri. “Anyone can start their own artificial skin project after a few minutes of training if they have the tools and materials,” he says.

 

In lab tests, the team placed the magnetic skin on the eyelid to track eye movements with a multi-axis magnetic sensor nearby. The magnetic field detected by the sensor was changed from eye movement, even if the eyelid was opened or closed. The sensor could also be attached to eyeglass frames or even a sleeping mask. It has potential to be used as a human-computer interface for sleep pattern analysis or for people who suffer from paralysis or to monitor eye conditions or to monitor driver alertness. 

 

The magnetic skin was also placed on a latex glove fingertip with a sensor inside a light switch. Whenever the magnetic skin was near the sensor, the light switched on or off without human contact. This could be useful in laboratory settings and in medical practices, where there is a risk for contamination. 

 

"Artificial electronic skins typically require a power supply and data storage or a communication network. This involves batteries, wires, electronic chips and antennas and makes the skins inconvenient to wear," said associate professor Jurgen Kosel, leader of the project. "Our magnetic skin does not require any of this. To the best of our knowledge, it is the first of its kind."

 

Liam Swanepole and Abdullah Almansouri show how flexible the magnetic skin is. (Image Credit: KAUST)

 

Kosel and his team are exploring ways to apply the application in a gesture-controlled wheelchair, in a contactless human-computer interface, and for non-invasive biomedical device localization.

 

 

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