Scientists develop stretchy, self-healing, recyclable electronics

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Anyone who was handed a soldering iron and some components in school knows just how fragile electronics can be. All it takes is for a single connection to be damaged and your whole circuit is broken. But what if circuits could withstand stretching, twisting, and even punctures? That’s what scientists at Virginia Tech have developed: soft electronics that are self-healing , and can even be recycled at the end of the product’s life. Instead of a rigid circuit board with soldered wires, these circuits are built onto a stretchy material with a layer of tiny, electrically conducting droplets of liquid metal. These droplets are dispersed in an electrical insulator, so each individual droplet is kept separate from its neighbours. To form a circuit, the ‘wires’ are embossed into the surface, allowing the droplets to connect to each other and conduct an electric current. “We can then locally break the droplets apart to remake circuits and can even completely dissolve the circuits to break all the connections to recycle the materials, and then start back at the beginning,” said Ravi Tutika, Postdoctoral Fellow at Virginia Tech. These droplets are what allow the circuit to survive a puncture. If the damage […]

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