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Stretchable conductive wires developed at North Carolina State University

Stretchable conductive wires developed at North Carolina State University
The tube, filled with liquid metal, can be stretched many times its original length. Photo from North Carolina University

Conductive wires that can be stretched up to eight times their original length while still permitting the flow of electrical charges have been developed by researchers from North Carolina State University.

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The wires can be used in personal gadgets such as headphones and phone chargers and have the potential for use in electronic textiles.

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According to Dr. Michael Dickey, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the university, their wires overcome the previous limitations of stretchable wires – increasing conductivity but diminishing elasticity.

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“Previous efforts to create stretchable wires focus on embedding metals or other electrical conductors in elastic polymers,” explained Mr. Dickey.

While increasing the metal improved conductivity, it decreased the wires ability to stretch. The wires made by Mr. Dickey and his team also used elastic polymers but instead of imbedding it with metal, they filled it with liquid metal alloy.

A thin tube of elastic polymer was filled with a mixture of gallium and indium, both efficient conductors of electricity.

“Our approach keeps the materials separate, so you have maximum conductivity without impairing elasticity,” said Mr. Dickey.

Because of this, their wires are more stretchable than the most conductive wires and more conductive then most stretchable wires.

The researchers will be continuing to work with the wires, focusing on the design challenge of how to minimize leakage of the metal if the wires are severed.

The research was funded by a National Science Foundation Career award and the NSF’s Research Triangle Materials Research Science & Engineering Center. – EcoSeed Staff

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