Unbreakable bionic glove made from silk for human-machine-interfacing

(Nanowerk News) DTU researchers have designed the new electronic material CareGum (Advanced Materials, "The Manufacture of Unbreakable Bionics via Multifunctional and Self-Healing Silk–Graphene Hydrogels"). It is highly adaptable and has unique sensing properties. It could enable those who cannot speak to speak again. Also, it allows digital rehabilitation programs to ensure quick recovery of injured body parts.
CareGum is short for a highly versatile material that exhibits conductivity, adhesiveness, reconfigurability and viscoelasticity. The material is based on silk and has many features that make it versatile and excellent for sensors to be used on the human body.
"We have created a material, which is conductive and thermoreversible. When you heat it, it becomes syrup-like and elastic, and when it is cold, it becomes solid. It is biocompatible and can easily be adapted to fit the human body; it is self-healable, flexible, and resist wear and tear. It can be woven into textiles and 3D printed. Finally, it is also cheap to produce", says Associate Professor Alireza Dolatshahi-Pirouz, who leads the research with researcher Firoz Babu Kadumundi.
Being conductive basically makes it amenable to transporting electrical and thermal information from one place to the other. At the same time, the adhesiveness enables CareGum to adhere to a wide range of polymers, metals and tissues, including muscle, bone, skin and heart tissue. Since its conductivity is based on ions, CareGum can convey information over longer distances than rigid electronics based on electron transport – exactly like the human body.
electronic glove
The sensor material used in the glove is extracted from naturally available silk cocoons. The glove itself consists of 5 channels, each one attached to one of the hand's five fingers. A resistance change occurs whenever a sensor is deformed, which is then converted and transmitted to a computer via an Arduino board.(Image: DTU)

An unbreakable Bionic Glove

The team has tapped into the unique properties of CareGum to design a bionic glove that quickly heals itself after injury. They have used it to convey sign language by monitoring the user's hand movements. They are now working on implanting it as a digital rehabilitation tool for hand injuries.
After a hand injury, it is essential to follow a rehabilitation programme to ensure a quick recovery and re-establish the strength and function of the hand. A typical setup is weekly meetings with a physiotherapist. Between those visits, the patients should do daily exercises at home. However, these daily exercises are often neglected because they are boring due to their repetitive nature.
The strategy is to hook the glove up to existing games that people already play on their mobile phones and incorporate the rehabilitation exercises in the game. Down the line, they want to have different games correlating to specific degrees of rehabilitation and required training.
Source: Technical University of Denmark
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