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Symposium EL18: Material, Device, and Fabrication Innovations for Flexible, Stretchable, and Printed Electronics

Pooi See Lee, Nanyang Technological University

Printable Stretchable Electroactive Composites for Soft Electronics

Written by Ekaterina Antimirova

Soft robotics, prosthetics, and stretchable displays all have one thing in common: the need for precise tactile feedback. And that’s where soft electronics come in. But these electronics have a lot of requirements to meet—they need to be stretchable, transparent, stable, and capable of visual or tactile communication. Enter Pooi See Lee, who has been on a journey to design printable electroactive composites that can deliver on all these fronts.

The baseline technology is embodied in a fully transparent and stretchable touch sensor. To achieve these properties, a novel ionic gel electrode layout was directly inkjet printed onto an elastomer base. Inkjet printing was the perfect choice for application due to its versatility and high-resolution. The wide range of potential applications requires this versatility, which is precisely why the materials have been tailored to exhibit desired properties such as self-healing in elastomers.

Lee’s research group has showcased impressive electro-adhesion behavior in grippers made from ionic gels and elastomers, capable of lifting both heavy and fragile objects. In another approach, the group printed liquid metal into elastomer composites filled with metal flakes to enhance its conductivity upon stretching. These materials have also been adapted for energy storage and generation, allowing the design of wearable gadgets activated and powered by human sweat.

The future looks bright for these innovative soft electronics!

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