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Researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology have developed a way to “grow” thin layers of gold on single crystal wafers of silicon, remove the gold foils, and use them as substrates on which to grow other electronic materials. The discovery could lead to new wearable developments, including a smartphone that conforms entirely to one's wrist.

Most electronics are made from silicon, a material consisting of single-crystal, perfectly aligned atoms; the single crystal, however, is rigid.

By beginning with single-crystal silicon and growing gold foils on it, the Missouri S&T team allowed the material to retain its high order, with added durability and flexibility.

“We bent it 4,000 times, and basically the resistance didn’t change,” said lead researcher Jay A. Switzer.

The thin gold foils are essentially transparent. According to Switzer, his team has peeled foils as thin as seven nanometers.

Thousands of gold foils — or foils of other metals — can be made from a single crystal wafer of silicon, he said.

“This is something that I think a lot of people who are interested in working with highly ordered materials like single crystals would appreciate making really easily,” said Switzer. “Besides making flexible devices, it’s just going to open up a field for anybody who wants to work with single crystals.”


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