While the field of extensible electronics is very promising, putting together the components of such devices can be tricky. A new connector has been designed to help by extending between components and connecting them together in a matter of seconds.
As things currently stand, the various parts of elastic electronic devices (such as soft-bodied robots or wearable sensors) are usually glued directly to each other. Unfortunately, electrical signals cannot pass through the glue. Also, the glue bond will soon break when these pieces are pulled in opposite directions.
Seeking a better-functioning alternative, an international team of scientists led by Prof. Chen Xiaodong of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore has created a ribbon-shaped connector called BIND (BIphasic, Nano-dispersed Interface).
It is primarily composed of a soft thermoplastic that is already widely used in elastic electronics, known as styrene-ethylene-butylene-styrene. Embedded within the thermoplastic matrix are electrically conductive gold or silver nanoparticles.
When users are assembling elastic electronic devices, they simply press each end of a BIND connector onto the circuit board, etc. on each of the two components – the ends adhere securely to these items in just 10 seconds. The connector can then be stretched to seven times its relaxed length without breaking. It also continues to carry a robust electrical signal between components while being stretched to up to 2.8 times its normal state.
Additionally, a standard Peel Adhesion Test showed that the two ends of the connector (which are bonded to bonded components) have 60 times the adhesion strength of traditional connective glues.
The technology has already been successfully tested in monitoring devices attached to mice and human skin, in the latter case measuring the electrical activity of arm muscles even underwater.
“These impressive results prove that our interface can be used to build highly functional and reliable wearable devices or soft robots,” said Dr. Jiang Ying from Nanyang. “For example, it can be used in high-end wearable fitness trackers where users can stretch, gesture and move in whatever way they feel most comfortable without affecting the device’s ability to capture and monitor their physiological signals” .
An article about the research – which also involved scientists from Stanford University; Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology; Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR); and the National University of Singapore – was recently published in the journal Nature.
Source: Nanyang Technological University