Stretchable Electronics For Wearables, Soft Robotics

Stretchable electronics are critical for soft robotics, wearable technologies, and biomedical applications. The current ways of making them, though, have limited their potential. A team of researchers has developed a material and fabrication process that can rapidly make these devices stretchier, more durable, and closer to being ready for mass manufacturing.

One of the biggest challenges for stretchable electronics is to reliably connect stretchable conductors with the rigid materials used in commercially available electronics components, such as resistors, capacitors, and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). When the stretchable materials bend and elongate, a large shear force develops at the interface and often rips apart the connection to make the circuit unusable.

The researchers used eGaIn nanoparticles to develop a new material — biphasic Ga-In (bGaIn) — which has both solid and liquid elements. When heated to 900 degrees C, a nanoparticle film of eGaIn changes form, developing a thin, solid oxide layer on top with a thick layer of solid particles embedded in liquid eGaIn. When peeled off, the material is transferred to stretchable substrates, similar to how temporary tattoos work.

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