After the rigidity of motherboards and supports for electronic circuits, the next step will be to be able to exploit printed circuits on elastic supports leading to the development of flexible electronics.
Flexible electronics will make it possible to give birth to new fields, whether it is electronics worn in clothing, combinations or accessories or new types of robots which can deform without damage, to access restricted spaces, by example.
More generally, it involves imagining printed circuits that can be stretched or distorted without being degraded by these physical constraints.
ThePurdue University (United States) is preparing a mass production technology project for the flexible electronics of tomorrow fromliquid metal alloys and processes borrowed frominkjet printing which should allow "print flexible and stretchable conductors on any medium, including elastic materials and fabrics".
The precise method will be published in the journal Advanced Materials and uses nanoparticles mixed with a volatile solvent by ultrasound and constituting a liquid metal ink which can be printed using an inkjet printing technique.
As it dries, the solvent evaporates, leaving only the nanoparticles. One last step of light press finalizes the process and brings the electrical conductivity of the printed electrical circuit. This last phase makes it possible to imagine the conception of a unique design of which only certain portions can be "activated" according to the needs or the targeted markets.
Purdue University researchers plan to explore this technology in depth and test how it works on different types of media in an attempt to obtain specific properties. This technique for producing flexible electronics could subsequently be used to support mass production processes.