Test & Measurement

Stretchable Plastic Electrode Made from Soup Additive


This robotic test instrument is stretching a flexible electrode over a curved surface. The nearly-transparent electrode is based on a special plastic developed by Stanford University chemical engineers. Even while being stretched the plastic continues to send electronic signals to the grid of transistors at the top of the curve. The stiff wires in today's electronics can't do this. The stretchy electrode helps pave the way for flexible electronics. The researchers began with a plastic with high conductivity and biocompatibility, but the plastic was very brittle; stretching it even 5 percent would break it. After testing more than 20 different molecular additives, they found that a molecule similar to the sort of additives used to thicken soups in industrial kitchens transformed the plastic's chunky and brittle molecular structure into a fishnet pattern with holes in the strands to allow the material to stretch and deform.