Today we discuss the technology behind the paper: “Extreme Toughening of Soft Materials with Liquid Metal” with Dr. Navid Kazem. Dr. Kazem began his work with liquid metal-embedded materials at Carnegie Mellon University, where he earned his PhD. He has since co-founded a new company devoted to rubber composites.
Before you read any further, please check out this video so you can get a feel for what we are discussing:
Jim: Dr. Kazem, I have to ask: what was your first experience with liquid metals?
Dr. Kazem: My first experience with liquid metals was looking at the expansion of mercury inside an old thermometer in school when I was maybe 10 years old.
Jim: Many of the newer thermometers use gallium alloys now. That’s fitting! I noticed that you made EGaIn in-house with raw indium and gallium. Was this the first time you handled these two elements? They are not well known to most people.
Dr. Kazem: At the beginning (~4 years ago) we used to purchase EGaIn; however, soon after that we started making EGaIn in-house. Yes, that was the first time I handled gallium and indium.
Jim: Your work with liquid metal-embedded elastomers can fundamentally change the way materials react to strain. Where do you see this being used in the future? What applications might benefit most from toughening with embedded liquid metal?
Dr. Kazem: We believe so! We actually have seen similar tearing mechanisms in bone and rabbit skin, and that’s one of the reasons they are very tough, and in fact, they are some of the toughest materials known to us. Tough and soft elastomers have important applications in emerging fields like stretchable and hwearable electronics and soft robotics; however, the most immediate impact would be in electronics, medical devices, and in the automotive industry where our material can improve the mechanical reliability of different parts.
Jim: You are currently the Chief Technology Officer of Arieca LLC, that’s a great transition from your PhD work! What products/services is Arieca currently offering?
Dr. Kazem: Thanks. I am so excited to start our company and spin out the research we did in the lab into industrial applications. Arieca is a materials technology start-up dedicated to creation of novel rubber composites. Our first product is a thermally conductive rubber (Thubber) that has the mechanical properties of soft biological tissues while having heat-conducting properties approaching some metals, like stainless steel. Additionally, as we discussed in our recent Advanced Materials paper, Thubber is 25-50× tougher than most elastomers to provide high mechanical reliability.
Jim: Where can our readers go to find out more about the innovative products your company develops?