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Northwestern Researchers Create “Rubber-Band Electronics”

For people with heart conditions and other ailments that require monitoring, life can be complicated by constant hospital visits and time-consuming tests. But what if much of the testing done at hospitals could be conducted in the patient’s home, office, or car?

Scientists foresee a time when medical monitoring devices are integrated seamlessly into the human body, able to track a patient’s vital signs and transmit them to his doctors. But one major obstacle continues to hinder technologies like these: electronics are too rigid.

Researchers at the McCormick School of Engineering, working with a team of scientists from the United States and abroad, have recently developed a design that allows electronics to bend and stretch to more than 200 percent their original size, four times greater than is possible with today’s technology. The key is a combination of a porous polymer and liquid metal.

A paper about the findings, “Three-dimensional Nanonetworks for Giant Stretchability in Dielectrics and Conductors,” was published June 26 in the journal Nature Communications.

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