Artificial Skin With Flexible Photonics

With the introduction of flexible materials, photonics can furnish numerous intriguing opportunities for both fundamental and applied research, enabling a plethora of applications beyond the capabilities of its electronic counterpart. It is non-invasive, ultrasensitive to external stimuli, and immune to electromagnetic interference of photons as signal carriers. Photonic devices have demonstrated exceptional optical modulation and sensing performance, indicating enormous promise for exciting creations such as soft photonic artificial skin.

All flexible photonic systems that duplicate or enhance human skin functions (mainly sensing) are photonic artificial skin. Flexible light sources, such as light-emitting diodes and lasers that generate photons as signal carriers are essential sensor units in photonic skins. Due to their tiny emission peaks, flexible lasers excel at highly sensitive and precise sensing.

Researchers have developed an effective technique for the mass processing of organic microlaser arrays, which act as sensing units, on the chip of photonic skins. They fabricated flexible mechanical sensor networks composed of coupled-cavity single-mode laser sources on flexible polymer substrates with a bilayer electron-beam direct writing method. The researchers used these microlaser-based sensor chips to recognize hand gestures, showing great potential for artificial skin applications.

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