Stretchy Metal To Revolusionise Mankind?

A science team at North Carolina State University has made a breakthrough in technology, which could allow for the creation of elasticated electronics and jewelery.

Written by Chris White

The research team led by Dr. Michael Dickey, has created a unique stretchable alloy from the blending of the two metals known as ‘indium’ and ‘gallium’, which form a liquid state when exposed to room temperature, but which also form a skin when exposed to the air.

The liquid is created by stacking droplets of the material on top of one-another using a syringe, which then retain their individual shapes without forming a single merged droplet. Unlike mercury it is harmless to humans.

Dr. Dickey believes that the technique will allow scientists and technicians to form the liquid metal into twistable shapes that can withstand pressure bending without sustaining significant damage.

The material could be very useful in the creation of electronic components that could endure severe stresses.

Speaking of the new invention Dr. Dickey said: “The metal forms a very thin layer of oxide and because of it, you can actually shape it into interesting shapes that would not be possible with normal liquids like water. It’s an additive manufacturing technique, so you’re basically directly printing the material in 3D space. It’s an additive manufacturing technique, so you’re basically directly printing the material in 3D space.

The resulting structures are soft, and if you embed them in, say, rubber, for example, you can create structures that are deformable and stretchable.”

Reacting to the news of the newly discovered material and the research involved in creating it, Professor of Electrical Engineering Jason Heikenfeld of the University of Cincinnati said: “Folks have tried to work with liquid metal for some time – some of us when we were younger would break up a thermometer and you’d see liquid metal – mercury – go all over the place.

It was evidence that although these materials have a significant upside, in terms of what you can do with them, they are extremely challenging to work with.

Professor Heikenfeld went on: “Flexible electronics are starting to emerge, with companies such as Samsung, LG and Nokia experimenting with bendy displays for phones and televisions. – But this technology was not stretchable – something you could achieve when you involved liquid metals

Stretchable is a whole other game because you’re now talking about wearable and conformable.”

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