NTU Singapore scientists produce innovative ultrathin and stretchable electronics with wide range of applications in health and wellness

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Waving your hand at a robot and controlling it to pick up an item may sound like a Jedi using the Force in a Star Wars movie, but this has become a reality at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore).

Waving your hand at a robot and controlling it to pick up an item may sound like a Jedi using the Force in a Star Wars movie, but this has become a reality at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore).

NTU Singapore has set up a high-tech pilot laboratory capable of rapid prototyping ultrathin and stretchable electronics that detect bioelectric signals from skin, muscles and organs, and transmit these signals to control robots or other electronic devices.

When these smart sensors are attached to limbs or the head, they empower individuals with limb disabilities or mobility impairments by providing an accessible method to control robotic prostheses, machinery, and motorised wheelchairs using alternative muscle movements and bio-signals.

According to the United Nations, about 15 per cent of the world’s population is living with some form of disability[1].

NTU researchers developed these innovative soft electronics devices by combining in-house designed soft materials and processes with commercially available hardware components.

This hybrid combination allows the NTU team to integrate many types of sensors on the market, such as wireless connectivity, accelerometer, temperature sensing, and monitoring vitals like heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels, and more.

The resulting sensors, encased in a gel-like skin, are soft, flexible and stretchable, similar to silicon bandages used in healthcare. These sensors adhere to the skin, enable joint movement, and come in various sizes and thicknesses, ranging from centimetres to sub-microns – thinner than the width of a human hair (0.01 millimetres).

Spearheading these numerous innovations, NTU Professor Chen Xiaodong has been a trailblazer in soft electronics over the last decade and has his name in over 50 patents. His scientific breakthroughs have earned him multiple prestigious accolades including Singapore’s prestigious President’s Science Award 2021, and most recently, the Kabiller Young Investigator Award 2023 presented by Northwestern University in US.

Over the years, Prof Chen’s research projects and innovations have been supported by the National Research Foundation, Singapore (...

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