Stretchable Electronics Need Bendable Power Sources
December 15, 2012

Researchers Working On Power Source For Stretchable Electronic Gadgets

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Future smartphones, tablet computers, and other consumer electronics gadgets will be made from bendable materials, according to a University of Delaware professor working to develop power sources for such devices.

Stretchable electronics will be the future of mobile technology, leading industry leaders such as IBM, Nokia, and Sony to develop products to take advantage of such materials, mechanical engineering instructor Bingqing Wei told Karen B. Roberts of UDaily, the university's online news service, on Tuesday.

Furthermore, advances in the development of stretchable materials could prove useful in other ways, such as new biomedical breakthroughs, including cyber skin for robotic instruments and improved portable and implantable electronic devices, Wei said.

One of the things seemingly hampering advances in bendable electronics research is uncertainty surrounding a gadget's power source. However, Wei and his colleagues are currently researching energy sources that are scalable and stretchable.

"Advances in soft and stretchable substrates and elastomeric materials have given rise to an entirely new field," the professor explained. "Rechargeable and stretchable energy storage devices, also known as supercapacitors, are urgently needed to complement advances currently being made in flexible electronics."

The power sources that the Delaware team is working on utilize carbon nanotube macrofilms, polyurethane membranes and organic electrolytes in order to operate. Wei believes that solving the energy issue will require brainstorming about new ways to process materials and manufacture devices in order to maximize the amount of power stored without inhibiting energy-related resources.

"To reveal a stretchable supercapacitator´s true performance, the Wei group examined the system´s electrochemical behavior using buckled single-wall nanotube (SWNT) electrodes and an elastomeric separator," Roberts explained.

"According to Wei, the supercapacitor developed in his lab achieved excellent stability in testing and the results will provide important guidelines for future design and testing of this leading-edge energy storage device," she added.

The professor has filed for a provisional patent in order to protect his team's work while they continue to refine the technology, Roberts said. A paper detailing some of his work was recently published in the journal Nano Letters, which is a publication of the American Chemical Society (ACS), she added.