13 July 2012
Researchers use silver nanowires to create stretchable electronics
Stretchable electronics could soon be possible thanks to researchers in the US who have developed elastic conductors made from silver nanowires.
The team from North Carolina State University developed a technique which embeds highly conductive silver nanowires in a polymer that can withstand significant stretching without adversely affecting the material's conductivity.
"This development is very exciting because it could be immediately applied to a broad range of applications," commented Dr Yong Zhu, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. "Our work focuses on high and stable conductivity under a large degree of deformation, complementary to most other work using silver nanowires that are more concerned with flexibility and transparency."
The researchers say that when the polymer is stretched and relaxed, the surface containing nanowires buckles. The result is that the composite is flat on the side that doesn't contain nanowires, but wavy on the side that does.
After the surface has buckled, the material can be stretched up to 50% of its elongation without affecting the conductivity of the nanowires. This is because the buckled shape of the material allows the nanowires to stay in a fixed position relative to each other, even as the polymer is being stretched.
"In addition to having high conductivity and a large stable strain range, the new stretchable conductors show excellent robustness under repeated mechanical loading," Zhu said.
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