New Plastic Models Properties of Skin

Chemical Engineering Professor Zhenan Bao and her team at Stanford University’s School of Engineering have developed a material that mimics the properties of human skin—able to both sense pressure and heal itself when cut. The soft, malleable plastic material is made by joining long chains of molecules together using relatively weak hydrogen bonds and then adding tiny particles of nickel to make the material stronger. The hydrogen creates “dynamic bonds [that] allow the material to self-heal,” said researcher Chao Wang in a release, while the nickel makes the material conductive. The result is a plastic that can be cut repeatedly and easily pressed back together without losing its original strength or conductivity. This new material could be used for health care devices like prosthetics as well as for consumer electronics. For example, severed wires coated with this new plastic could easily self-mend, restoring electricity. Bao said the team is now working to make the material stretchy and transparent for use on CE devices. The team’s findings were published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

New App Tracks Patient Pain Levels

Migraine sufferers and facial pain patients can now record their pain using an iOS app developed by a team at the University of Michigan’s 3D Lab. The app lets patients pinpoint and monitor pain location and intensity when it hits by tapping on a 3D skull, instead of having to recall pain levels at the doctor’s office. The recorded data can help doctors develop better pain management plans. The free app called PainTrek is available in Apple’s App Store.

New Glass Making Could Aid Data Storage Solutions

A new process for creating glass, developed by a team from the University of Düsseldorf and the University of Bristol, could have implications for the future of data storage and other memory applications. This new method lets researchers control how the atoms within a substance are arranged around one other to create glass, rather than the traditional method of waiting for the liquid to cool and crystalize into a glassy solid. Potential applications, according to Dr. Thomas Speck, from the University of Düsseldorf, include “metallic glasses whose great lightness and strength promise exciting applications, and chalcogenide glasses which are used in memory applications and phase switch memory, a possible future technology for data storage.”

Researchers Connect Mobile Screens by Pinching their Fingers

Researchers at Tokyo University of Technology have developed a new way to seamlessly connect the screens on mobile devices together to create one giant screen. Dubbed “Pinch,” this program lets iOS users link two or more adjacent displays together to create one seamless image simply by pinching two fingers together over the screens. Screens can be lined up vertically or horizontally, and can share their relative position and screen size over a Wi-Fi connection. Takashi Ohta, associate professor at Tokyo University of Technology, told The Verge in November that this new technology has great implications as a collaborative tool. “People probably own just one of these devices each,” he said. “I think people could communicate in fun ways by getting together with friends and putting their devices next to each other.”