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Under the Skin

Subject ScienceChemistry
Grade Level Grades 9-12, Higher Education
Resource Type Lesson Plan
Standards Alignment
Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards

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Stanford chemical engineers have created a synthetic skin that can stretch like rubber, carry electricity, and self-heal. They have chemically developed an entirely new class of synthetic polymers in order to create a highly functional replication of human skin.

“Our skin is constantly helping us interact with the world. How do we know how tightly to hold objects so that they do not slip out of our hands; or whether a surface is too hot to touch; or even how to enjoy our comfortable pajamas? Our skin helps us determine sensations such as temperature, texture, vibration, and pressure. Also, it is constantly regenerating, protecting our internal organs from the outside environment, and automatically healing wounds. Besides helping us perform necessary tasks every day, skin provides us feedback that enriches our lives.

“We use our skin as an inspiration to make new types of electronics that are ultrathin, stretchable, healable, and biodegradable, and yet have electronic properties. Our goal is to change how we interact with electronics to ultimately improve human health. For example, we are developing seamless health monitoring electronics that provide real-time information on our vitals that guide disease diagnosis and ultimately serve as individualized treatment for the patient. Moreover, these electronics are critical for imparting the sense of touch in prosthetics and improving the quality of advanced robotics. By making these electronics biodegradable, not only are we consciously minimizing impact on the environment, we can begin to explore new applications of temporary electronics inside the body and in the environment (e.g. agriculture, forestry).

“In order to achieve these goals, we must use chemistry to create new materials. We focus on making polymers, otherwise known as plastics, electronically conducting and functional like skin. Understanding the molecular design rules are important for generating a material that has multiple properties that aren’t typically found together. We construct polymers with both covalent and dynamic bonds as well as encode instructions for self-assembly into desired architectures. There is a large chemical and physical landscape to design new polymeric materials for new types of electronics. We are exploring this exciting field and anticipate our findings will contribute to future advanced electronics.” – Bao lab

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Files

Chemistry-Shorts-Under-the-Skin_lesson.pdf

Lesson Plan
March 26, 2021
4.3 MB
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Videos
Under The Skin, with Zhenan Bao, Stanford University
Remote video URL

Standards

Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants.
Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.
Construct and revise an explanation for the outcome of a simple chemical reaction based on the outermost electron states of atoms, trends in the periodic table, and knowledge of the patterns of chemical properties.
Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence that feedback mechanisms maintain homeostasis.
Communicate scientific and technical information about why the molecular-level structure is important in the functioning of designed materials.
Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives.

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