Electronic materials have been a major stumbling block for the advance of flexible electronics because existing materials do not function well after breaking and healing. A new electronic material created by an international team, however, can heal all its functions automatically even after breaking multiple times. This material could improve the durability of wearable electronics.
“Wearable and bendable electronics are subject to mechanical deformation over time, which could destroy or break them,” said Qing Wang, professor of materials science and engineering, Penn State. “We wanted to find an electronic material that would repair itself to restore all of its functionality, and do so after multiple breaks.”
Self-healable materials are those that, after withstanding physical deformation such as being cut in half, naturally repair themselves with little to no external influence.
In the past, researchers have been able to create self-healable materials that can restore one function after breaking, but restoring a suite of functions is critical for creating effective wearable electronics. For example, if a dielectric material retains its electrical resistivity after self-healing but not its thermal conductivity, that could put electronics at risk of overheating.
The material that Wang and his team created restores all properties needed for use as a dielectric in wearable electronics — mechanical strength, breakdown strength to protect against surges, electrical resistivity, thermal conductivity and dielectric, or insulating, properties. They published their findings online in Advanced Functional Materials.