Rubber Band Electronics Stretch Into the Future of Medical Monitoring


Regular visits to the hospital for medical monitoring can be frustrating and time-consuming. It would make so much more sense if these patients could be outfitted with something that allowed for remote monitoring, allowing them to stay in the comfort of their homes and offices. The problem is that rigid electronics simply make this uncomfortable and unsuitable for daily use.

And that’s why researchers at the McCormick School of Engineering are working on something that they call “rubber band electronics.” These electronics can stretch to over 200% of their original size, all while retaining a suitable level of functionality and conductivity. They achieved this by stretching a highly porous 3D structure (polydimethylsiloxane or PDMS) to three times its original size. They then filled the pores with EGaIn liquid metal. That allows for consistent electrical flow, even when the material is “excessively stretched.”

Current “stretchable” electronics are only able to stretch about 50%, so this over 200% stretch would be a monumental breakthrough in the field. There are “many potential applications [that] require a device to stretch like a rubber band,” said researcher Yonggang Huang. “With that level of stretchability we could see medical devices integrated into the human body.”

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