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article imageNew nanomaterial promises flexible electronic devices

By Tim Sandle     Jun 23, 2016 in Technology
A U.S.-South Korean collaboration has led to the creation of a new ultrathin, transparent, conductive film. The film is the basis of new, flexible and wearable electronics.
The new material has been created by researchers from University of Illinois at Chicago and Korea University. The new material is highly conductive to electric current and it can be bent and stretched without the properties being affected. Importantly, the film can be fashioned from a low cost method for flexible electronics (a topic trending high on Twitter.)
The film, Nanomagazine reports, is composed of a mat of tangled nanofibers that have been electroplated to form a "self-junctioned copper nano-chicken wire,” according to one of the lead scientists Professor Alexander Yarin, who is in charge of the Mechanical Engineering Department at University of Illinois.
Interviewed by Laboratory Manager magazine, Processor Yarin expands further on the material concept: “The nanofiber spins out in a spiral cone, but forms fractal loops in flight. The loops have loops, so it gets very long and very thin.”
The material was constructed Manufacture begins by electrospinning a nanofiber mat of polyacrylonitrile. These fibers are very small, no larger than one-hundredth the diameter of a human hair. Through the process, each fiber shoots out like a rapidly coiling noodle. The fibers are then deposited onto a surface where they intersect a million times. It is these spun loops that are ultrathin, thinner than typical nanofibers.
Because the polyacrylonitrile material does not conduct, it is spatter-coated with a suitable metal (copper, silver, gold or nickel) in order to attract metal ions. Electrospinning and electroplating are both relatively new techniques.
The metal-plated fibers can then be transferred onto any surface, such as the skin of the hand, a leaf, or onto glass, forming the basis of an electronic device.
In trials, the film retained its properties after repeated cycles of severe stretching and bending. For the next-generation of wearable electronics, being tough, transparent and conductive are the key properties. The new material has high transparency and low electrical resistance. In addition, the flexible nature of the new material presents a number of potential applications including roll-up touchscreen displays, wearable electronics, flexible solar cells and even electronic skin.
The research has been published in the journal Advanced Materials. The paper is titled “Self-Junctioned Copper Nanofiber Transparent Flexible Conducting Film via Electrospinning and Electroplating.”
More about flexible electricals, Nanotechnology, nanomaterials, Electronics, Wearable
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