At MatTek every Monday, boxes after boxes which are maintained at 39 degrees are loaded. These boxes contain dime sized pieces of human skin! Each of these pieces is in plastic dishes, and it adds up to around two adult humans worth of skin.
This skin though is not got from people, but it is harvested by MatTek. They grow their own skin and then sell it to those companies that need it. The companies that need human skin are those that deal in laundry detergent, toilet bowl cleaners, makeup, tanning lotion as well as anti-ageing creams.
If this skin was not produced in such large quantities, the companies would have been forced to test their products on animals, especially rabbits.
This growing of human skin is being done by MatTek as well as a subsidiary of L’Oreal which is known as Episkin. This is great as not only is it ethical but also it is practical, and it simulates human skin better than animals can.
XCellR8 is a company that tests these products for brands such as Lush Cosmetics. These use skin from MatTek. However, to the naked eye, this skin does not even look like human skin. It resembles circles of clear jello which is less than a fifth of a millimeter.
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Proxima Centauri, which is the closest star to us, has several unrevealed secrets that are held by it. Proxima Centauri is orbited by a planet which is rocky and which is very similar to Earth. There are possibilities that this could even harbor life. This planet is named as Proxima b and is just four light years away, and in terms of astronomy, this is considered almost like being next door. This is in an area called the Goldilocks Zone. In this the temperatures are mild, and water can remain liquid.
In the recent years, there have been hundreds of exoplanets which have the possibility of harboring life, but this is by far the closest.
In order to reach this planet, it would take more than thirty thousand years, but scientists feel that an ultra-modern spacecraft could reach it within the time frame of a human life and they feel that mechanized probes could be sent to Proxima B in the future. In fact, in the distant future, there are possibilities that space travelers can colonize this planet as well if the surface conditions are survivable. However, what scientists feel is that as this has such proximity to the sun, this could be blasted by ultraviolet rays and X-rays as well.
Artificial limbs have always been there for decades now. However, a common factor that links the prosthetics which were used earlier as well as those used now, is that there is no sense of touch. In the near future, though, Zhenan Bao intends for this to change.
Zhenan Bao is at Stanford University as a Chemical engineer, and it is her goal to make the artificial skin using plastic. This created skin should do whatever normal skin can do.
In fact, the devices are being tested by her in a nitrogen box. This is the stage where the testing happens before these can be exposed to the air.
These devices are made of plastic, and this has the electrical properties which are found in silicon. In fact, this looks like any ordinary plastic, but it has pressure sensors which are between the layers and based on how hard it is pressed, the electrical properties change. This is done with the help of electrodes which are in the form of fine lines. These convert the touch signals into electrical pulses.
This plastic also has the capability of repairing itself when it gets torn just like the skin heals itself when it is scratched. This property is mimicked by the design of the molecules. In fact, the plastic which is created can even stretch up to 8 times of what its actual length was.
The power of the artificial skin is a problem that is being sorted upon by Bao. One potential method could be to use a polymer where light can be turned into electricity. This could be done by absorbing light and transferring it to electricity.
Bao has already initiated a company where they will sell a version of the plastic she has created for making of touch screens. It is her endeavor however to help those people who have lost their limbs to regain their sense of touch.