Owing to the design, material, and scientific approach that is employed, skin electronics are thin, electronics that are flexible to be positioned on the skin. While, it sounds like something straight from a science fiction, such devices are anticipated to be used in a number of applications such as health diagnosis, health monitoring, human- machine interface, and virtual reality.
The fabrication of skin electronics requires materials that are soft and stretchable to fit in the human skin from mechanical aspects. In fact, for skin electronics, one key component is an intrinsically stretchable conductor that sends electrical signals between two devices. For high-quality and reliable performance of skin electronics, a stretchable conductor featuring high stretchability, ultrathin thickness, conductivity close to metal, and ease to create patterns is required.
With these specifications, despite extensive research, so far, it was not possible to develop a material that possessed all properties at the same time. This is because all the required properties have trade-offs between them.
Meanwhile, to serve this, a team of researchers at the Institute for Basic Science, Center for Nanoparticle Research unveiled a new method to create a composite material in the form on nanomembrane comprising all the required properties. Specifically, the new composite material contains metal nanowires that are tightly arranged in a monolayer within the ultrathin rubber film.
The process developed by the team to create the novel material is called float assembly method. In particular, the float assembly leverages the Marangoni effect, which happens in two liquid phases that vary in surface tensions. Elaborately, in the event of a gradient in surface tension, this results in generation of a Marangoni flow away from the area of lower surface tension towards the one with higher.