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Now, Electronic Circuits That Stretch To 200 Per Cent The Original Size
 
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Now, Electronic Circuits That Stretch To 200 Per Cent The Original Size  
 
Northwestern researchers could achieve it by a combination of liquid metal and porous polymer.    
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Thursday, July 05, 2012 Researchers at the McCormick School of Engineering, working with a team of scientists from the United States and abroad, have created a design that allows electronics to bend and stretch to more than 200 per cent their original size. This is four times greater than what is possible with today’s technology. The key is a combination of a porous polymer and liquid metal, according to the researchers.

Electronic Circuits




“With current technology, electronics are able to stretch a small amount, but many potential applications require a device to stretch like a rubber band,” said Yonggang Huang, Joseph Cummings Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, who conducted the research with partners at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (South Korea), Dalian University of Technology (China), and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “With that level of stretchability, we could see medical devices integrated into the human body.”

In the past five years, Huang and collaborators at the University of Illinois have come up with electronics with about 50 per cent stretchability. Loss of conductivity in stretchable electronics has been one of the major challenges being faced by these researchers. Though circuits made from solid metals can survive a small amount of stretch, their electrical conductivity increases by 100 times when stretched. “This conductivity loss really defeats the point of stretchable electronics,” Huang said.

And this is how Huang’s team could overcome these challenges. First, they created a highly porous three-dimensional structure using a polymer material, poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS), that can stretch to three times its original size. Then they placed a liquid metal (EGaIn) inside the pores; this enabled electricity to flow consistently even when the material is excessively stretched. And the result is indeed amazing--a material that is both highly stretchable and extremely conductive.

“By combining a liquid metal in a porous polymer, we achieved 200 per cent stretchability in a material that does not suffer from stretch,” Huang said. “Once you achieve that technology, any electronic can behave like a rubber band.”

Monika Bhati, EFYTIMES News Network


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