The Flexible Revolution of Wearable Electronics

image provided by pixabay

This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)

As people use more and more electronic wearables, the industry had to find better energy storage solutions that will be able to match the flexibility and movement of the devices themselves. While traditional batteries are effective, they often lack the flexibility required for these soft electronic devices.

Researchers have recently made a significant leap forward in addressing this challenge, by developing a small-scale energy storage device that can stretch, twist, fold, and wrinkle, which could pave the way for truly adaptable and comfortable wearables.

When trying to address this issue, the industry tried using micro supercapacitors (MSCs), a promising alternative due to their high-power density, rapid charging capabilities, and long lifespan. However, the fabrication of electrodes remained a major challenge.

According to Interesting Engineering, electrodes are conventionally made from brittle materials (like gold), which significantly limit the device’s ability to deform without compromising performance. On the other hand, while eutectic gallium-indium liquid metal (EGaIn) offers superior conductivity and deformability, its high surface tension makes fine patterning extremely difficult, which is problematic as it is a crucial step in creating efficient electrodes.

A research team from Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) and the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology (KITECH) devised a solution using laser technology. This invention is based on successfully patterning both EGaIn and graphene (an active material) using a laser on a stretchable substrate made of an SEBS polystyrene copolymer.

This technique is advantageous because it didn’t damage the underlying SEBS substrate and thus preserved the device’s overall flexibility. Furthermore, the tests revealed that the device’s energy storage capacity remained unchanged even after undergoing 1,000 stretching cycles, and withstood various mechanical deformations, including stretching, folding, twisting, and wrinkling.

The implications of this technological breakthrough are immense for the future of wearable technology, paving the way for the creation of comfortable and adaptable wearables that can seamlessly integrate into our daily lives. Possible uses include thinner fitness trackers that comfortably wrap around the wrist for exercise, smart clothing that moves with the body throughout the day, and even medical devices that conform to the body for a more comfortable and personalized experience.