MANHASSET, NY A study of how stickers peel from windows could lead to a new way to precisely control the fabrication of stretchable electronics.
The study, a collaborative effort by MIT and others, suggests that ultra-thin, flexible but strong materials such as graphene are ideal candidates for stretchable electronic applications.
Massachussets Institute of Technology researchers performed well-controlled experiments to stretch and compress surfaces with thin films attached to them, and measured the dimensions of resulting blisters. From their experimental data, the team developed a theory to explain the formation, size and evolution of the blisters.
The researchers realized that by intentionally creating delaminated surfaces, they could design devices that allow wires attached to a surface to move with the material without breaking. If the wires are already partially separated from the material, they won't break under stress from twisting and stretching of the substrate.
Previous work on stretchable electronic devices relied on complex microfabrication techniques to force delamination blisters to appear. Sometimes, this forces the blisters to become larger than their intrinsic size.
Stretchable electronics, which would enable electronic devices embedded into clothing, surgical gloves, electronic paper or other flexible materials, have proven difficult to engineer because the electrical wiring tends to be damaged as the material twists.
The study is published in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of June 15 offers a new approach to designing such circuits.
The research work was funded by the EU-NEST (New and Emerging Science and Technology) program and the French Agence National Recherche.