Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Elastic Electronics: Stretchable Gold Conductor Grows Its Own Wires

19.07.2013
Networks of spherical nanoparticles embedded in elastic materials may make the best stretchy conductors yet, engineering researchers at the University of Michigan have discovered.

Flexible electronics have a wide variety of possibilities, from bendable displays and batteries to medical implants that move with the body.


Courtesy of Nicholas Kotov

LEFT: an electron microscope image of the gold nanoparticles in a relaxed sample of the layer-by-layer material. The nanoparticles are dispersed. RIGHT: a similar sample stretched to a little over twice its original length, at the same magnification. The nanoparticles form a distinct network

"Essentially the new nanoparticle materials behave as elastic metals," said Nicholas Kotov, the Joseph B. and Florence V. Cejka Professor of Engineering. "It's just the start of a new family of materials that can be made from a large variety of nanoparticles for a wide range of applications."

Finding good conductors that still work when pulled to twice their length is a tall order — researchers have tried wires in tortuous zigzag or spring-like patterns, liquid metals, nanowire networks and more. The team was surprised that spherical gold nanoparticles embedded in polyurethane could outcompete the best of these in stretchability and concentration of electrons.

"We found that nanoparticles aligned into chain form when stretching. That can make excellent conducting pathways," said Yoonseob Kim, first author of the study to be published in Nature on July 18 and a graduate student in the Kotov lab in chemical engineering.

To find out what happened as the material stretched, the team took state-of-the-art electron microscope images of the materials at various tensions. The nanoparticles started out dispersed, but under strain, they could filter through the minuscule 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," Kotov said.

The team made two versions of their material—by building it in alternating layers or filtering a liquid containing polyurethane and nanoparticle clumps to leave behind a mixed layer. Overall, the layer-by-layer material design is more conductive while the filtered method makes for extremely supple materials. Without stretching, the layer-by-layer material with five gold layers has a conductance of 11,000 Siemens per centimeter (S/cm), on par with mercury, while five layers of the filtered material came in at 1,800 S/cm, more akin to good plastic conductors.

The eerie, blood-vessel-like web of nanoparticles emerged in both materials upon stretching and disappeared when the materials relaxed. Even when close to its breaking point, at a little more than twice its original length, the layer-by-layer material still conducted at 2,400 S/cm. Pulled to an unprecedented 5.8 times its original length, the filtered material had an electrical conductance of 35 S/cm—enough for some devices.

Kotov and Kim chiefly see their stretchable conductors as electrodes. Brain implants are of particular interest to Kotov.

"They can alleviate a lot of diseases—for instance, severe depression, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease," he said. "They can also serve as a part of artificial limbs and other prosthetic devices controlled by the brain."

Rigid electrodes create scar tissue that prevents the electrode from working over time, but electrodes that move like brain tissue could avoid damaging cells, Kotov said.

"The stretchability is essential during implantation process and long-term operation of the implant when strain on the material can be particularly large," he said.

Whether in the brain, heart or other organs—or used for measurements on the skin—these electrodes could be as pliable as the surrounding tissue. They could also be used in displays that can roll up or in the joints of lifelike "soft" robots.

Because the chain-forming tendency of nanoparticles is so universal many other materials could stretch, such as semiconductors. In addition to serving as flexible transistors for computing, elastic semiconductors may extend the lives of lithium-ion batteries. Kotov's team is exploring various nanoparticle fillers for stretchable electronics, including less expensive metals and semiconductors.

Kotov is a professor of chemical engineering, biomedical engineering, materials science and engineering and macromolecular science and engineering.

The study is titled "Stretchable Nanoparticle Conductors with Self-Organized Conductive Pathways." The work is funded by the STX foundation in Seoul, South Korea; U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science; Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency; Air Force Office of Scientific Research; and National Science Foundation. U-M is pursuing patent protection for the intellectual property and seeking commercialization partners to help bring the technology to market.

Watch and embed the video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQ7_TPSSfys.

Nicole Casal Moore | Newswise
Further information:
http://www.umich.edu

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Epoxy compound gets a graphene bump
14.11.2018 | Rice University

nachricht Automated adhesive film placement and stringer integration for aircraft manufacture
15.11.2018 | Fraunhofer IFAM

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA keeps watch over space explosions

16.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

16.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

How the gut ‘talks’ to brown fat

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>