Researchers from North Carolina State University have created conductive wires that keep on working even while they’re stretched up to eight times their original length.
The wires can be used for everything from headphones to phone chargers, says the team, and could even be used in electronic textiles.
To make the wires, the team started with a thin tube made of an extremely elastic polymer and then filled it with a liquid metal alloy of gallium and indium – an efficient conductor of electricity.
“Previous efforts to create stretchable wires focus on embedding metals or other electrical conductors in elastic polymers, but that creates a trade-off,” says Dr Michael Dickey, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at NC State.
“Increasing the amount of metal improves the conductivity of the composite, but diminishes its elasticity.”
Instead, the team’s new approach keeps the materials separate, giving maximum conductivity without impairing elasticity.
“In short, our wires are orders of magnitude more stretchable than the most conductive wires, and at least an order of magnitude more conductive than the most stretchable wires currently in the literature,” says Dickey.
But while it should be realatively straightforward to manufacture the wires , there’s still one big problem: how to stop the liquid metal leaking all over your clothes if the wires are severed.