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June 13, 2016

Nanofiber film could lead to electronic skin

by John_A

If you want electronic skin or other transparent wearable devices, you need to send a current through that skin. However, it’s hard to make something that’s both conductive and transparent — and that’s where a team of American and Korean researchers might save they day. They’ve developed a nanofiber film that’s 92 percent transparent, but has electrical resistance that’s “at least” 10 times better than the previous best. You create it by electrospinning polyacrylonitrile (a polymer resin) until it forms a mat, spatter-coat it with metal and then electroplate it. The result is a material that eases the flow of current but is mostly made up of see-through holes.

The technology should be very durable: you can subject it to “severe” bending and flexing without losing its features. And crucially, it should be cheap to make. You’re using relatively common materials, and the processes only take a few seconds even in the lab — you could mass-produce this without jumping through hoops. It’ll be a long time before that happens, but the scientists envision a world where flexible electronics are genuinely practical. On top of e-skin for health sensors, you could see flexible solar panels, roll-up touchscreens and more sophisticated wearables.


Source: UIC News Center, Advanced Materials

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