Imagine a world where your wearable devices fit seamlessly with every contour of your body and heal themselves from damage.
Imagine a flexible, robust sensor patch that tracks the recovery progress of patients with elbow or knee issues or a resilient and dependable wearable that gauges a runner’s heart activities during workouts to ward off serious injuries. The evolution of wearable tech is often constrained by its electronic circuits. Typically made from conductive metals, these circuits can be inflexible or susceptible to wear and tear, limiting the potential of these intelligent gadgets.
National University of Singapore (NUS) scientists have recently developed an ultra-flexible, self-healing, and highly conductive substance ideal for stretchable electronic circuits. This innovation holds the potential to elevate the capabilities of wearable tech, adaptive robotics, intelligent devices, and beyond. Named the Bilayer Liquid-Solid Conductor (BiLiSC), this material can expand up to 22 times its initial size while retaining impressive electrical conductivity. This unique electromechanical trait, previously unattained, boosts the synergy and comfort between humans and devices. This breakthrough paves the way for its promising application in medical wearables and other domains.
The Future of Wearable Technology
Utilising BiLiSC’s liquid metal circuitry, devices can endure significant deformations and self-repair, ensuring continuous electronic and functional performance. The flexible, conductive, and self-healing attributes of the ‘super material’ BiLiSC make it an intriguing innovation, particularly apt for wearable technologies that need to adapt to the body’s contours and diverse movements. BiLiSC is a dual-layered material. The initial layer is a self-assembled pure liquid metal, maintaining high conductivity even under extensive strain.
This minimises power transmission energy losses and reduces signal degradation during transmission. The subsequent layer combines liquid metal microparticles in a composite, granting it self-reparative capabilities. In the event of a rupture or cut, the liquid metal released from the microparticles bridges the gap, enabling almost immediate self-healing and preserving its outstanding conductivity. To transition the invention into a market-ready product, the NUS team has devised a method to produce BiLiSC in a manner that’s both scalable and cost-effective.
Superior Functionality and Premium Performance
The researchers at NUS showcased that BiLiSC can be transformed into diverse electrical components vital for wearable electronics. This includes pressure sensors, interconnects, wearable heating elements, and antennas tailored for wireless communication. Laboratory tests exhibited a robotic arm, integrated with BiLiSC interconnections, that was highly sensitive, swiftly detecting and reacting to subtle pressure variations. The arm’s complex movements—bending or twisting—did not hinder the seamless signal flow from the sensor to the data processor, especially compared to counterparts fabricated using non-BiLiSC materials. With the triumphant exhibition of BiLiSC’s capabilities, the NUS team’s focus now shifts to advancing material research and refining the production process. They’re keen on creating an enhanced BiLiS variant that can be directly printed, eliminating the need for a template, which would cut costs and heighten precision during BiLiSC’s fabrication.