A team of polymer chemists and engineers from Carnegie Mellon University have developed a new methodology that can be used to create a class of stretchable polymer composites with enhanced electrical and thermal properties. These materials are promising candidates for use in soft robotics, self-healing electronics and medical devices. The results are published in the May 20 issue of Nature Nanotechnology.
In the study, the researchers combined their expertise in foundational science and engineering to devise a method that uniformly incorporates eutectic gallium indium (EGaIn), a metal alloy that is liquid at ambient temperatures, into an elastomer. This created a new material—a highly stretchable, soft, multi-functional composite that has a high level of thermal stability and electrical conductivity.
Carmel Majidi, a professor of Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon and director of the Soft Machines Lab, has conducted extensive research into developing new, soft materials that can be used for biomedical and other applications. As part of this research, he developed rubber composites seeded with nanoscopic droplets of liquid metal. The materials seemed to be promising, but the mechanical mixing technique he used to combine the components yielded materials with inconsistent compositions, and as a result, inconsistent properties.