USTC finds new way for flexible electro


image: Flexible capacitors for contact and pressure detection.
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Credit: Image by WANG Meng et al.

Flexible electronics generally refers to electronic devices built on conformable or stretchable substrates. In 2000, organic flexible electronics was named among the top 10 scientific and technological achievements by Science, as well as the technology for the drafting and cloning of the human genome. Due to its rapid development in the information age, flexible electronics are highly regarded and have already been applied in various fields, including electronic skin, human-machine interaction, and implantable medical systems.

As the Internet of Things has entered a new stage, flexible, multi-functional and highly integrated electronic systems are urgently needed to respond to more complex application scenarios. Faced with the challenge of increasingly gloomy environmental and energy issues, simple, fast and green flexible electronic preparation technology has been proposed by the research team led by Professor ZHAO Gang of China University of Science and Technology (USTC) from China. Academy of Sciences to face the key constraints of materials and manufacturing techniques. This work was published in ACS Nano.

In this work, the researchers prepared the thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) membrane by electrospinning, which is used as the substrate, and then the liquid metal (LM) could be printed in various patterns on the substrate using pre-fabricated models. LM and TPU nanofibers exhibit good interaction during assembly. This finding is inspiring because the scientists tried to modify the LM or the substrate materials to achieve the printing and writing of the LM, as the LM has no affinity with most substrates.

In addition, this new system is a typical sandwich structure, which means that the system is built layer by layer and each layer is made up of a TPU membrane and an LM printed on it. This strategy invests in flexible electronic devices such as flexible circuits, resistors, capacitors, inductors and their multiple devices with excellent extensibility, air permeability and stability. In the meantime, they are reconfigurable.

Other future applications have been demonstrated in research, such as flexible screens, sensors and filters. In addition, the newly acquired recyclability and reconfigurability address concerns about environmental and energy issues. Their findings open up more possibilities in the development and commercialization of flexible electronic devices.

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