Researchers in Oregon State University’s College of Engineering have taken a key step toward the rapid manufacture of flexible computer screens and other stretchable electronic devices, including soft robots.
Researchers put nickel nanoparticles into the liquid metal, galinstan, to thicken it into a paste with a consistency suitable for additive manufacturing.
Gallium alloys are already being used as the conductive material in flexible electronics; the alloys have low toxicity and good conductivity, plus they are inexpensive and “self-healing”.
But prior to the modification developed at OSU, which used sonication to mix the nickel particles and the oxidized gallium into the liquid metal, the alloys’ printability was restricted to 2-dimensional.
The field features a range of products including electrically conductive textiles; bendable displays; sensors for torque, pressure and other types of strain; wearable sensor suits, such as those used in the development of video games; antennae; and biomedical sensors.
The gallium alloy paste demonstrates several features new to the field of flexible electronics.