‘Self-Healing’ Flexible Electronics: A Step Closure To Reality

A new technique developed by a group of Indian and British researchers promises to overcome the problem of ‘circuits breakage’ in flexible electronic devices due to usage, over a period of time.

The group has demonstrated that it is possible to make ‘self-healing’ flexible electronics.

Though the concept of self-healing electronics has existed for some time, researchers have claimed the new technique to be novel as it does not require rare materials or the addition of any complex circuitry.

In any electronic device you need thin wires to connect various semiconductor based logic gates and other circuit components or ‘interconnects’.

In the case of flexible electronics where you bend a gadget several times in different directions it becomes prone to breakage. This makes flexible electronics unreliable in their present form.

The researchers from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and University of Cambridge suspended copper microspheres having radius of 5 micrometres (one micrometer is one thousandth of a millimetre) in silicone oil which acts as insulating fluid.

For simulating a broken circuit, researchers submerged an open electrical connection in the mixture. When an electrical potential was applied across the gap (broken circuit) it created an electric field that attracted the copper spheres and they started moving and forming chains of loosely bound clusters and bridged the gap.

When electrical potential is applied it results in the flow of current and produces heat. The heat generated in this case through the chains stabilized them. Thus a stable wire-like connection was made.

The copper-sphere ‘patch’ unlike previous methods is both flexible and stretchable. This means if a circuit breaks, it automatically creates a potential difference across the gap and would make the copper spheres move.

More experiments, however, are needed before self-repairing circuits can be integrated in to microelectronics devices.

This is a ‘India Science Wire’ story; edited by Clean-Future Team