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Gallium-Indium Liquid Metal Self-Healing Electronics, Part 5 of 5

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  • This week we learned about an exciting new liquid metal-infused polymer, made with a gallium-indium alloy, which can be used to form circuits that heal themselves after being damaged. Today, Eric Markvicka and I wrap up our conversation.

    Jim: Where do you see this field of experimentation taking you next??

    Eric:  Electrical self-healing is an important property, but the material does not heal itself mechanically after damage.  A next step for us will be to engineer and study a soft conductive material that is capable of both electrical and mechanical self-healing without requiring manual intervention. 

    Jim: That does seem like a logical next step.

    Eric: If we accomplish this, then we can get even closer to engineering machines and electronics that match the extraordinary resilience of natural biological tissue.

    Jim: That sounds perfect for applications where humans are not present. By the way, I understand the liquid metal circuits can be used as pressure sensors too. What would be the advantages of a liquid metal-embedded elastomer sensor?

    Eric:  The liquid metal (LM) elastomer composite wouldn't be great for use as a traditional pressure sensor. The conductive wiring is observed to have a negligible electro-mechanical coupling. Stretching to 50% strain, the maximum increase in resistance is less than 10%. In contrast, for a microfluidic channel of liquid metal you would expect an increase of 125% for the same strain. Such a characteristic increase in circuit resistance is undesirable for most circuit applications and power transmission.

    Jim: Are there any other types of sensing applications this could be used for?

    Eric: Potentially, the LM-elastomer composite could be used to detect damage (cutting, tearing, or puncture) by monitoring the local changes in electrical conductivity. 

    Jim: I think there will be a few readers out there thinking about new ways to use this fascinating material. Eric, thank you so much for your time.

    Eric:  Thanks again for showing interest in our work!

    (The electrically self-healing liquid metal-elastomer composite is detailed in Nature Materials)