ECE: Electrical & Computer Engineering
ECE News

Nano-Assembly Process Inspires Elastic Metal

Potential of plastic, conductive material includes flexible circuits, space mirrors, artificial muscles

A nanotechnology process developed in the Fiber and Electro-Optic Research Center (FEORC), directed by ECE's Rick Claus has led to a spin-off firm developing a flexible, nanocomposite material that is both elastic and conductive.

The material, developed by NanoSonic, Inc., is called Metal Rubber™ and can be stretched to approximately 300 percent of its original size and relax back to its original dimensions. The mechanically robust material is chemical- and wrinkle-resistant. Its temperature range is between -60° C and 170° C.

Potential uses of the material include electrical interconnections, electromagnetic shielding, stretchable circuits, antennas, and wearable computers, Claus said. The material is made using modifications to the electrostatic self-assembly technique developed by FEORC in the 1990s, in which a substrate is first dipped into a solution containing positive ions, rinsed, then dipped into a solution containing negative ions. Through electrostatic attraction, molecule-thick layers of different materials are assembled.