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March 3, 2014 AT 2:00 pm

Fractal wire patterns enhance stretchability of electronic devices

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Phys.org has a write up detailing some interesting new research in stretchable electronics.

Fractals—patterns defined by their scale-invariance that makes them look the same on large scales as they do on small scales—are found in nature everywhere from snowflakes to broccoli to the beating of the heart. In a new study, researchers have demonstrated that metal wires patterned in various fractal motifs, when integrated into elastic materials, enable highly stretchable electronic devices. The fractal wire patterns could lead to a variety of new devices, such as biomedical sensors that can be attached to the skin and that have unique properties such as invisibility under magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)…

In general, a main challenge in designing stretchable electronics is maintaining good electronic functionality while enabling stretching of up to twice the normal device size. Some of the most successful approaches to achieving both of these goals involve combining two separate components: a hard component that provides high conductivity and a soft component that provides mechanical stretchability.
The dual-component nature of these devices raises the question of how hard and soft materials can be ideally integrated.
The results of the new study show that fractal patterns offer a promising approach to hard-soft materials integration, and suggest that fractal patterns can influence the mechanical properties of 2D materials. In the new devices, the hard metal wires are engineered into fractal designs and then bonded to soft elastomers.

“We have established an approach, with general utility, for configuring hard materials with soft ones, in ways that have immediate relevance in all areas of stretchable electronics,” coauthor John Rogers, Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told Phys.org. “The resulting properties also provide advanced capabilities in stretchable/conformal devices and sensors, not only electronic, but photonic, optoelectronic and photovoltaic as well.”

Read more.

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