Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed circuits that are 1.5 micrometers thick. Made of silicon and plastic, the new circuits are elastic and flexible, able to bend to any shape or application, making it perfect for embedding in “brittle electronics.” John Rogers, one of the researchers behind the project, says that the circuits are designed for the plastic material, rather than the silicon, to absorb most of the stress when bent. The material can be stretched up to 15% before the circuit fractures.
To make the elastic circuits, the team binds the silicon wiring to a thin sheet of rubbery plastic that has been stretched out to be approximately 15% wider and longer than it was before.
Once the two materials are bound together, the researchers release all tension from the rubber. “It snaps back to its pre-stretched state and buckles with the attached circuit like an accordion bellows,” Rogers says.
Some proposed applications are brain implants and “smart” clothing — think wearable gadgets. Imagine wearing t-shirts with MP3 players embedded in the fabric! Personally, I can’t wait to own a cell phone that I can stretch around my head like a sweat band. Because…that…would…be…awesome!