Scientists have created stretchable electrodes made of a soup thickener. It was created at the Stanford Bao Lab. Its properties were described by Bao as ‘uncompromised electrical performance and high stretchability.’ The potential applications include brain-monitoring devices and smart clothing.
Smart clothes need to stretch without damaging the sensors. The solution discovered by Bao and her team at Stanford include two plastics. The combination of these polymers created a clamp-like interface. This mixture wasn’t flexible, however, so it didn’t seem useful, but Bao contacted the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory to use their X-ray equipment. The goal was to find a molecule that would make the mixture stretchy.
The missing ingredient was a molecule used to prepare soups in industrial kitchens. This molecule stops the crystallization process and turns the mixture into a stretchy substance.
The mixture wasn’t expected to have high conductivity, but to Bao’s surprise, the material conducted more electricity when stretched. It’s also transparent, with a 96% light transmittance. This is one of the highest values for transparent electrodes.
With only an inkjet printer, scientists have created stretchy transistor arrays. In the future, bioelectronics and brain interfaces will be possible with the new stretchy material.