Wearable tech is growing by leap and bounds. If you thought that wearables are limited to just fitness, fashion or AR, you are in for a pleasant surprise. Researchers at Purdue University have developed liquid metal alloy circuits using inkjet printing. These circuits can be used to create soft robots and flexible electronics devices as well as fibers in the future. If this happens, this can open the way forward to a whole new range of consumer devices and therapeutic clothing.
Called mechanically sintered gallium-indium nanoparticles, this production method involves the dispersion of ink into a non-metallic solvent using the process of ultrasound. The developed ink can be used in an inkjet printer and creates nanoparticles made of liquid metal that can even pass through a minute nozzle. With these nanoparticles, you can create anything you want, clothes for the runway or soft robot for medical or archaeological purposes. The technique is very simple, almost like the way a commercial 3D printer is used.
Rebecca Kramer, one of the researchers and an assistant professor working at Purdue University stated that they want to create stretchable electronics that don’t depend on motion. As the liquid metal nanoparticles can be stretched without being deformed, many pliable devices can be devised out of them. Liquid metal in natural form cannot be printed. The liquid metal needs to be sonicated in ethanol to make it conducive for inkjet printing. As ethanol evaporates, only the fabricated nanoparticles are left on the surface that can be stretched with some pressure.
As we write this, there are lots of things on which the future of such pliable nanoparticles and research depend for instance, the orientation of nanoparticles on hydrophobic and hydrophilic surfaces or the self-assembly of the particles. Moreover, the researchers are also keen to understand the behaviour of each individual particle under applied pressure, which can pave the way forward to create new sensors and ultrathin particles.
A research paper on the technology and production technique authored by John William Boley, Kramer and Edward L. will be published in Advanced Materials on April 18.