A team of Swiss researchers at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) made an interesting breakthrough with developing stretchy circuits that can quadruple in length and be used for smart garments and robotics. The stretchable electronics can be stretched like rubber up to four times in any direction and be cycled like a million times without loosing its electrical properties.
If you wonder why this could be of any significance then ask yourself the following: What has been the main complaint by consumers wearing and considering buying new technologies? And what has limited designers/developers when it came to them making wearables and smart clothing? Indeed, the ability of technology to be more seamlessly integrated into the devices and or garment. It is these kind of breakthroughs that we believe can expand design possibilities for wearable tech makers in many fields. It might not be the research results that everybody has been waiting for but when we think about smart skin circuits that can offer tactile feedback, biological sensors, electrical prosthetics and electrical solutions sewn into textile, a whole new world of possibilities suddenly presents itself.
When it comes to the material itself, it is a technology that coats liquid metal with a stretchy polymer, which creates an elastic circuit capable of conducting electricity. The hybrid material is based on liquid metal and solid metal alloys.
Stéphanie Lacour, in charge of the Soft Bioelectric Interfaces Lab at the EPFL stated: “Using the deposition and structuring methods that we developed, it’s possible to make tracks that are very narrow – several hundredths of a nanometer thick – and very reliable.” Research team member and graduate student Arthur Hirsch added: “We can integrate conventional electronics into assemblies that stretch and carry power, we can use it in soft robotics and smart clothing… but we can also use it to construct actuators that give tactile feedback,”
Since overall user experience of smart clothing and wearable technologies still has a lot to wish for today, means that the reason to adopt many technologies is lacking. Developments like these can help to make it possible for wearables and more fashionable tech like smart clothing to become more comfortable and even more durable sooner rather than later.