Inkjet-printed liquid metal

Electronic devices created using a new inkjet-printing technology to produce circuits made of liquid-metal alloys for “soft robots” and flexible electronics.

Image credit Alex Bottiglio/Purdue University

According to Purdue University, elastic technologies could make possible a new class of pliable robots and stretchable garments that people might wear to interact with computers or for therapeutic purposes.

Rebecca Kramer, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University.

“We want to create stretchable electronics that might be compatible with soft machines, such as robots that need to squeeze through small spaces, or wearable technologies that aren’t restrictive of motion. Conductors made from liquid metal can stretch and deform without breaking.

This process now allows us to print flexible and stretchable conductors onto anything, including elastic materials and fabrics.

Liquid metal in its native form is not inkjet-able. So what we do is create liquid metal nanoparticles that are small enough to pass through an inkjet nozzle. Sonicating liquid metal in a carrier solvent, such as ethanol, both creates the nanoparticles and disperses them in the solvent. Then we can print the ink onto any substrate. The ethanol evaporates away so we are just left with liquid metal nanoparticles on a surface.”

source Purdue University