Stretchable electronics is a promising new technology for next-generation wearable devices, according to a review published in Science and Technology of Advanced Materials. The technology has a number of potential applications but challenges remain in terms of finding appropriate materials and manufacturing methods.
By integrating multiple stretchable components, such as temperature, pressure and electrochemical sensors, it is possible to create a material resembling human skin that could provide non-invasive healthcare monitoring. Such technology would also allow for the creation of smart prosthetics or robots with enhanced sense capabilities. However, currently fabrication of artificial skin remains time-consuming and complex.
There are two main methods for manufacturing stretchable electronics. The first involves the use of intrinsically stretchable materials, such as rubber, which can endure large deformations. However, these materials have several limitations, such as high electrical resistance.
The second method comprises making non-flexible materials stretchable using innovative design. For example, origami-inspired folding techniques can be used to make foldable electronic devices. In the future, stretchable electronics could be enhanced with new capabilities, such as wireless communication, self-charging or even self-healing.
The next step after laboratory tests is to bring stretchable electronic devices to market, which demands cheaper materials and faster and scalable manufacturing methods.