When I was working on a prototype for an electronics project many years ago in college, I remember wishing that a kind of a stretchable wire had already been invented. Well, after many years, it looks like the technology is finally here. Researchers at the McCormick School of Engineering together with a team of U.S. scientists were able to develop a technology that will allow electronics to stretch nearly four times its size and length. How? The team reportedly created a highly porous three-dimensional structure using a polymer material that can stretch to three times its original size. Then, they placed a liquid metal called EGaIn inside the pores which allows electricity to flow consistently even when the material is excessively stretched.
“By combining a liquid metal in a porous polymer, we achieved 200 percent stretchability in a material that does not suffer from stretch. Once you achieve that technology, any electronic can behave like a rubber band,” environmental engineering and mechanical engineering professor Yonggang Huang said. Huang’s paper entitled “Three-dimensional Nanonetworks for Giant Stretchability in Dielectrics and Conductors” was recently published via Nature Communications last month. Right now, the challenge is the loss of conductivity in the stretchable electronics. Researchers are hoping that the technology will be applied to medical devices sometime in the future.