22 May 2015 Liquid metals as ultra-stretchable, soft, and shape reconfigurable conductors
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Abstract
Conventional, rigid materials remain the key building blocks of most modern electronic devices, but they are limited in their ability to conform to curvilinear surfaces. It is possible to make electronic components that are flexible and in some cases stretchable by utilizing thin films, engineered geometries, or inherently soft and stretchable materials that maintain their function during deformation. Here, we describe the properties and applications of a micromoldable liquid metal that can form conductive components that are ultra-stretchable, soft, and shape-reconfigurable. This liquid metal is a gallium-based alloy with low viscosity and high conductivity. The metal develops spontaneously a thin, passivating oxide layer on the surface that allows the metal to be molded into non-spherical shapes, including films and wires, and patterned by direct-write techniques or microfluidic injection. Furthermore, unlike mercury, the liquid metal has low toxicity and negligible vapor pressure. This paper discusses the mechanical and electrical properties of the metal in the context of electronics, and discusses how the properties of the oxide layer have been exploited for new patterning techniques that enable soft, stretchable and reconfigurable devices.
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Collin B. Eaker, Michael D. Dickey, "Liquid metals as ultra-stretchable, soft, and shape reconfigurable conductors", Proc. SPIE 9467, Micro- and Nanotechnology Sensors, Systems, and Applications VII, 946708 (22 May 2015); doi: 10.1117/12.2175988; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2175988
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