Printed circuits that stretch like rubber

March 4, 2016 | 12:00
Printed circuits that stretch like rubber
Printed circuits that stretch like rubber
Printed circuit tracks that are thin yet also as supple as rubber, that can’t be, you say, even less stretchable to four times their size in all directions? Two times, ten times, a hundred times? No, stretchable a million times! Yes, this invention exists, and is the subject of a recent publication in the review “Advanced Materials”.

The field of application of this new metallic film is probably huge.

If it really permits fine yet stretchable and deformable circuits, it opens the way to artificial skins for prosthetics or robots. If it can be integrated into fabrics, it will start an era of micro-computing clothing, the much talked about “wearables”. If it is capable of matching the contours of the body and following its movements, it will be massively used in sensors for monitoring biological functions.

It’s just a matter of imagination, emphasizes Hadrien Michaud, PhD student at the the Laboratory of Soft Bioelectronics Interfaces (LSBI) at the École Polytechnique de Lausanne, and one of the authors of the study which foresees “all sorts of uses on complex forms, and movements which evolve over the course of time”. Until now, the development of flexible electronic circuits has stumbled over the rigidity of the available materials. The use of an alloy of gold and gallium, partially liquid at ambient temperature, integrated as a thin film (<1µ) in a supporting polymer with elastic properties, appears to offer promising results.
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