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Northwestern Researchers Create 'rubber-Band Electronics'

rubber bands

Credit: Energy Harvesting Journal

Northwestern University researchers have developed a design that enables electronics to bend and stretch more than 200 percent of their original size using a combination of a porous polymer and liquid metal. Conventional electronics can survive a small amount of stretching, but their electrical conductivity plummets by as much as 100 times. "This conductivity loss really defeats the point of stretchable electronics," says Northwestern professor Yonggang Huang.

The researchers overcame these challenges by creating a highly porous three-dimensional structure using poly(dimethylsiloxane), a polymer material that can stretch to three times its original size. They then placed a liquid metal inside the pores, enabling electricity to flow consistently even when the material is excessively stretched. This technique resulted in a material that is both highly stretchable and extremely conductive. A paper about the findings, "Three-Dimensional Nanonetworks for Giant Stretchability in Dielectrics and Conductors," was published in Nature Communications.

"By combining a liquid metal in a porous polymer, we achieved 200 percent stretchability in a material that does not suffer from stretch," Huang says. He notes that more flexible electronics are a step toward developing medical monitoring devices that can be seamlessly integrated into the human body.

From Northwestern University
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Abstracts Copyright © 2012 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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