Inkjet Printing of Liquid Metal Dispersions

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Highly deformable soft machines require equally deformable soft electronics for sensing and power transport. Previously developed soft electronics utilize polymer based front-side electrode materials that provide advantages in flexibility, but have much higher sheet resistances than metals, leading to significant losses. In addition, conductive polymers are not as stretchable as most materials employed in soft robotic applications, significantly reducing their potential uses.

Researchers at Purdue University have developed a technology utilizing liquid metals encased in hyperelastic polymers that addresses the shortcomings of the conductive polymers used in previously developed technologies. The composite materials retain the function of rigid metal conductors while leveraging the highly deformable properties of the polymer matrix. The researchers are also innovating the processing of liquid metal in order to develop a scalable manufacturing process. Additive manufacturing with liquid metal dispersions will bridge the gap between well established, scalable liquid processing, such as printing, and the processing of emerging soft functional materials that exhibit high surface tension, viscosity, and density properties that typically preclude printability. This breakthrough will enable a new class of stretchable electronic devices to serve as platforms for soft robotics, safe human-machine interaction, active orthotics, wearable interfaces, or assistive medical devices for motion aid, prolonged endurance, and health monitoring.

-Allows printing on soft functional materials
-New class of stretchable electronic devices

Potential Applications:
-Soft robotics
-Active orthotics
-Wearable interfaces
-Assistive medical devices
Aug 13, 2015
Utility Patent
United States
Dec 12, 2017

Aug 14, 2014
United States
Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization
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