Soft Electronics Revolutionizing Medical Technology

Soft Electronics Revolutionizing Medical Technology

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Researchers at Singapore’s NTU are revolutionizing the world of innovative soft and stretchable electronics.

While most electronic products are hard and rigid, this rigidity becomes a hurdle when they have to be used in contact with the human body. A report by the UN states that 15 percent of the global population has a physical disability of some form and largely uses various forms of technology to improve their quality of life. This requires non-rigid electronics, and soft electronics might be the solution.

According to Interesting Engineering, the researchers at NTU devised various formulations for softer materials that can be combined with electronics to make softer electronics. The advantage of such soft electronics is that they can withstand repeated movements without breaking – the researchers printed the circuits on softer substrates to facilitate repeated movements without the risk of breaking. This was achieved using a ribbon form printing pattern, which is thinner than human hair and can stretch without breaking.

The NTU team also developed a soft universal connector called BIND. This connector can be stretched to seven times its length and is also 60 times tougher than conventional connectors and is used to join electronic components by pressing them together.

The potential uses of this innovation are numerous, and the researchers have already demonstrated some of them by integrating various sensors into their devices to measure parameters like heart rate, oxygen levels, and blood pressure. These sensors are encased in soft, flexible, and stretchable gel-like skin and can be used, for example, to facilitate the movements of joints. A similar material could also be applied around the heart to monitor it without being as invasive as conventional pacemakers.

Non-medical uses for soft electronics range from crop monitoring (applied directly to plants and issue alerts about crop diseases) to food safety (when applied to food packaging).

Chen Xiaodong, materials science and engineering professor at NTU spoke about the project, stating: “We aim to address some of humanity’s most pressing challenges, from climate change to healthcare advancements.”