Scientists Have Finally Made Stretchable Circuitry

Bendable electronics are nothing new. But if you're after an electronic party trick, you're going to want to get your hands on a new breed of stretchable circuitry.

Elastic electronics are something engineers have been lusting over for a long time. It's not hard to understand why: current constraints mean that most circuits are solid or at best slightly flexible. Imagine the possibilities if your conductors could stretch to many times their length.

The problem is that when most conducting materials are stretched, their material properties change — in fact, their conductivity typically drops by factors of tens or hundreds. That makes them practically useless.

Now, a team from the McCormick School of Engineering has changed that by loading a polymer with liquid metal. They took the porous polymer material called poly(dimethylsiloxane) that can stretch to many times its original size. Then they placed a liquid metal called EGaIn inside the pores, in turn allowing electricity to flow consistently even when the material is excessively stretched.

The new material, which is discussed in an article in Nature, can stretch to twice its length without any drop in conductivity. That makes it four times more extendable than any other elastic conductor ever made.

All of which prompts us to ask, what piece of technology would you most like to see made stretchable? [Nature via Science Daily]

Image: odolphie/Flickr


Comments

    Definitely network cables, network racks can get incredibly cluttered with cables that have far more slack on them than needed unless of course you cut and crimp all your own cables.

    I want a Flexi-Pad that I can roll up in my pocket. Although I'm assuming we'll need better flexible screens and batteries too.

    Having written that, I'm now thinking Flexi pad might already be a "Lady's" product.

    A stretch-out physical keyboard for a phone or 7-inch tablet would be awesome, but I bet this will mostly be used invisibly to put circuitry into hinges and cabling and such. We'll see...

    Liquid metal you say....
    This and http://gizmodo.com/5921296/googles-artificial-brain-loves-to-watch-cat-videos
    One more step closer to T2.. :/

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