Because It Can (The Next Step to Bendable Electronics)
Technology is constantly being developed to be lighter, more flexible, and maneuverable. But, the reason why we haven't been able to make foldable electronics is caused by a limitation in outer materials malleability. The circuits themselves have a hard time dealing with the tension and damage that is done when we push past the physical capabilities.
Have you ever sat on your phone by accident, and jumped up worried you may have bent it, rendering the screen or other functions unusable? This concern might be one that many iPhone 6 users can relate to. But what if, your phone was designed to be able to bend and fold? In Austin TX, a recent development tells us that it could soon become reality.
The researchers at the University of Texas have developed a gel that can automatically repair the cracks and breaking points in electronic circuits when they're bent. Made from combining a conductive polymer hydrogel with a self-assembling metal-ligand gel, it provides the strength needed to hold things together while improving the elasticity of the material. The self healing capability comes from terpyridine, a cubic framework held together by zinc atoms.
Self-repaired supergel supports its own weight after being sliced in half. Credit: Image courtesy of University of Texas at Austin
The gel can be applied at circuits' junction points, where breaking and cracking are most likely to happen. Of course, the application of this gel doesn't mean that your electronics will be unbreakable; but it does mean they will be stronger and last much longer.
Using this gel mixture, the researchers were able to achieve conductivity that was about 10 times higher than other hydrogels used in bioelectronics and current rechargeable batteries. The gel can be the answer to better rechargeable batteries, as the researchers look more into other functions for this gel in other industries as well: medical technology, artificial skin, and soft robotics. With more and more advancements, we are on the verge of breakthrough to a new generation of electronic technology.