Researchers from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have developed what they term as “mechanically transformative electronics,” which can alter its shape, flexibility, and stretchiness. The platform enables users to reconfigure and optimize electronic interfaces for any number of applications. According to research lead professor Jae-Woong Jeong, “This new class of electronics will offer not only robust, convenient interfaces for use in both tabletop or handheld setups, but also allow seamless integration with the skin when applied onto our bodies.”
The transformative electronics were designed using a unique gallium structure, which is then hermetically sealed within a soft silicone material, and combined with electronics that are both stretchable and flexible. The mechanical transformation of the material is controlled by temperature change events that are initiated by the user. The key to that transformation is the gallium material, which biocompatible, has high rigidity in solid form, and melts at the same temperature as human skin.
The researchers were able to demonstrate their transformative electronics with several applications, including multipurpose electronics with a variable degree of stiffness and stretchability, such as a pressure sensor with adjustable bandwidth and sensitivity, and a neural probe that becomes soft when implanted into brain tissue.
Transformative electronics has applications in both current and emerging technologies, and the researchers feel their breakthrough can reshape the consumer electronics industries, especially in the biomedical and robotics areas. They also believe that further developing the platform could significantly influence the way we use and depend on electronics in our daily lives. It will be interesting to see the impact of this new technology will have on wearables in the near future.