University of Michigan researchers have found that networks of spherical nanoparticles embedded in elastic materials could make the best bendable conductors, which could make possible flexible electronics that could be used to make flexible displays or implantable devices.
"We found that nanoparticles aligned into chain form when stretching," says Michigan's Yoonseob Kim. "That can make excellent conducting pathways."
The researchers took electron microscope images of materials at various tensions, and found that under strain, the nanoparticles could filter through the gaps in the polyurethane, connecting in chains as they would in a solution. "As we stretch, they rearrange themselves to maintain the conductivity, and this is the reason why we got the amazing combination of stretchability and electrical conductivity," says Michigan professor Nicolas Kotov.
The researchers made two versions of the material by building it in alternating layers or filtering a liquid containing polyurethane and nanoparticle clumps to leave behind a mixed layer.
The researchers see their stretchable conductors being used as electrodes in applications such as brain implants. "The stretchability is essential during implantation process and long-term operation of the implant when strain on the material can be particularly large," Kotov says.
From The Engineer (United Kingdom)
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