Stretchable and Soft Electronics using Liquid MetalsMichael D. Dickey
- Mechanical Engineering
- Mechanics of Materials
- General Materials Science
The use of liquid metals based on gallium for soft and stretchable electronics is discussed. This emerging class of electronics is motivated, in part, by the new opportunities that arise from devices that have mechanical properties similar to those encountered in the human experience, such as skin, tissue, textiles, and clothing. These types of electronics (e.g., wearable or implantable electronics, sensors for soft robotics, e‐skin) must operate during deformation. Liquid metals are compelling materials for these applications because, in principle, they are infinitely deformable while retaining metallic conductivity. Liquid metals have been used for stretchable wires and interconnects, reconfigurable antennas, soft sensors, self‐healing circuits, and conformal electrodes. In contrast to Hg, liquid metals based on gallium have low toxicity and essentially no vapor pressure and are therefore considered safe to handle. Whereas most liquids bead up to minimize surface energy, the presence of a surface oxide on these metals makes it possible to pattern them into useful shapes using a variety of techniques, including fluidic injection and 3D printing. In addition to forming excellent conductors, these metals can be used actively to form memory devices, sensors, and diodes that are completely built from soft materials. The properties of these materials, their applications within soft and stretchable electronics, and future opportunities and challenges are considered.