Electronic circuits are sensitive little buggers. Bend, flex or twist them and they typically snap in half. That's because electronics are made from brittle metals.
But scientists at EPFL in Switzerland have found a way to turn liquid metal, an alloy of gold and gallium, into a flexible circuit that can be stretched to four times its original size.
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The potential applications are wide-ranging and incredibly useful. Think artificial skin on a robotic limb, skin on a soft robot, and electronic clothing. Such material could also be used to provide touch feedback on soft game controllers, for example.
"We can come up with all sorts of uses, in forms that are complex, moving or that change over time," said Hadrien Michaud in a press release. Michaud is a PhD student at the Laboratory for Soft Bioelectronic Interfaces and one of the authors on the study, which appeared in this week's "Advanced Materials."
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The scientists chose gallium because it maintains good electrical properties and stays in its liquid state, even at room temperature.
Below, a video shows a couple of examples of the material's flexibility, which is on par with rubber. In lab tests, the liquid metal circuits were put through punishing tests, and held up to a million stretches without cracking.