Business Essentials for Professionals


Swiss researchers create stretchable circuits

This technology is likely to transform wearables and robotics in the near future.

What does robots and smart clothing have in common – Swiss researchers. In an invention that will create electronic circuits which can be stretched almost four times their original length in any given direction, Swiss researchers have created a material that can withstand the cycle of elongation and contraction more than a million times before they crack and lose conductivity, making them perfect candidates for electronics which could be sewed into fabrics, inserted into prosthetics, be used with biological sensors and even become our largest organ – our skin.

The new hybrid material bases itself on solid metal alloys and liquid metal. The Swiss researchers made this substance by creating a film of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), a silicone-based substrate called. They then formed a metallic bi-layer by evaporating gallium onto a sputtered gold film, which is a mere 60 nanometers thick. When stretched, cracks which form in the solid part of the gold alloy are quickly filled with liquid gallium, which thankfully has a melting point of 29.8 degrees Celcius (85.6 degrees F).

The icing on the cake is that, the final material can be lithographed onto any surface no matter the complexity, just like normal electronic circuits.

The lack of the requirement to print a circuit board for an electronic circuit has opened the doors of its usage which is limited by just imagination.

"We can integrate conventional electronics into assemblies that stretch and carry power, we can use it in soft robotics and smart clothing... but we can also use it to construct actuators that give tactile feedback," says Arthur Hirsch, a graduate student.
In other words, this new material heralds the coming of age of robotics where their liquid metal circuit bodies can be covered up in squishy human-like skin.
Go watch the Terminator series to prepare yourself for what is going to follow next.

Debashish Mukherjee

Markets | Companies | M&A | Innovation | People | Management | Lifestyle | World | Misc