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 at Northwestern University, 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.
"With current technology, electronics are able to stretch a small amount, but many potential applications require a device to stretch like a rubber band," said Yonggang Huang, Joseph Cummings Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, who conducted the research with partners at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (South Korea), Dalian University of Technology (China), and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "With that level of stretchability we could see medical devices integrated into the human body."
In the past five years, Huang and collaborators at the University of Illinois have developed electronics with about 50 percent stretchability, but this is not high enough for many applications.
One challenge facing these researchers has been overcoming a
|Contact: Pat Vaughan Tremmel|