Flexibility is a fairly useful feature for many materials, as it can allow them to survive great strain. Almost without exception though, the electronics we use every day are rigid and will break if you try to bend them. This limits the applications electronics can be used for, but researchers at the University of Michigan have a new solution for creating elastic electronics.
Many research groups have worked on flexible and elastic electronics before, with different means of achieving the goal, including liquid metal and curled wires. The Michigan researchers however are turning to gold nanoparticles. They found that when the nanoparticles are embedded in polyurethane, stretching the plastic created channels the nanoparticles fall into. This allows the nanoparticles to form chains through the plastic, which are electrically conductive, even when the plastic is stretched to 5.8 times its original length.
The researchers primarily see their elastic electronic solution being used as electrodes for medical implants, which will survive better in our bodies than rigid ones, and do less damage to tissue as well. They are also looking at using different materials, including semiconductors that could then be used with lithium-ion batteries, to extend their lives.
Source: University of Michigan