Skin is a fantastically complex biomaterial which serves a multitude of functions. Without this protective layer we would be more exposed to harmful radiation, microorganisms and injury. For a long time scientists have searched to find a material which has similar properties as our skin for diverse applications. Now researchers at MIT claim to have devised a temporary “second skin” which mimics many important features of human skin.
The “skin” is formed from siloxane polymers (polymers made up of alternating silicon and oxygen atoms) and is applied as a gel. After application a platinum catalyst is used to cause the polymers to join up between chains to form a network. In search for the perfect polymer the scientists created a library with more than a hundred siloxane polymers of which they selected and tested those with the best properties.
This polymer layer is remarkable for a number of reasons. Firstly it has been designed to match the elastic properties of youthful skin which means when adhered to the surface of human skin it can smooth out the surface reducing the appearance of wrinkles and “eye-bags”. It also has been found to hydrate the skin better than high-end commercial moisturisers and can remain on the skin for up to 24 hours. In order to make it useful for the many possible applications scientists also paid attention to its appearance and comfort.
The scientists believe the material holds particular promise for medical applications; “It’s an invisible later that can provide a barrier, cosmetic improvement and potentially deliver a drug locally to the area that’s being treated” says Daniel Anderson, an associate professor at MIT.
Photo and Video credit: Melanie Gonik MIT