Compared to the 50 percent stretchability than can be achieved today with compromises on conductivity, the researchers' new technology can stretch by more than 200 percent and retain "excellent" conductivity.
The finding could lead to products using electronics commonly often referred to as rubber-band electronics that are especially desirable in the medical field.
“With current technology, electronics are able to stretch a small amount, but many potential applications require a device to stretch like a rubber band,” said Yonggang Huang of Northwestern University, who conducted the research with partners at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Dalian University of Technology in China, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “With that level of stretchability we could see medical devices integrated into the human body.”
Huang's technology is based on highly porous three-dimensional structure using polydimethylsiloxane, short PDMS, which can stretch two to three times its original size. Eletrical conductivity was added with a liquid metal, Eutectic Gallium-Indium (EGaIn).
“By combining a liquid metal in a porous polymer, we achieved 200 percent stretchability in a material that does not suffer from stretch,” Huang said. “Once you achieve that technology, any electronic can behave like a rubber band.”