Scientists at Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Urbana Campaign have developed a method to fabricate stretchable electronics that enables the user to subject circuits to extreme twisting. This technology promises flexible sensors, transmitters, photovoltaic and microfluidic devices, and other applications for medical and athletic use. Such electronics could be used where flat, unbending electronics would fail, like on the human body.
The researchers - Yonggaung Huang and Joseph Cummings at Northwestern Univeristy's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and John Rogers of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Campaign - use an array of circuit elements approximately 100 micrometers square that are connected by metal "pop-up" bridges. The tiny circuit elements do not bend when placed on a curved surface - similar to how buildings don't bend on the curved Earth.
Huang and Rogers took their pop-up bridges and made them into an "S" shape, which, in addition to bending and stretching, have enough give that they can be twisted as well. "For a lot of applications related to the human body - like placing a sensor on the body - an electronic device needs not only to bend and stretch but also to twist," said Huang. "Now, it can accommodate any deformation."