One of the greatest challenges in developing electronic circuitry for wearables and for robots is the creation of flexible and durable conductors. The quest for stretchable materials that won’t break or become brittle over time often involves silver in various forms. In 2014, we wrote about Flextronics‘ work with silver flakes to develop circuitry that stretches without breaking off from the substrate material.
A group of researchers led by Professor Takao Someya at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Engineering recently announced a big step in printable elastic conductors. As reported in Nature, Someya’s team has surpassed its own earlier work in the field. The group demonstrated fully printable sensor networks that accurately sense pressure and temperature when stretched as much as 250%. The elastic conductor combines four components. The mixture includes micrometer-sized silver (Ag) flakes, fluorine rubber, fluorine surfactant, and an organic solvent.
Applications for durable and stretchable conductors include wearables for athletes and sports training, biometric sensing for a wide variety of medical conditions, and robotics. According to Someya, the demand for sensitive elastic conductive material that will last is likely to increase rapidly.