New Nano Fiber Material Could Lead to Electronic Skin
An ultrathin film that is both transparent and highly conductive to electric current has been produced by a cheap and simple method devised by an international team of nanomaterials researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Korea University.
American and Korean researchers have developed a nanofiber film that’s 92 percent transparent, but has electrical resistance that’s “at least” 10 times better than the previous best. You create it byelectrospinning polyacrylonitrile (a polymer resin) until it forms a mat, spatter-coat it with metal and then electroplate it. The result is a material that eases the flow of current but is mostly made up of see-through holes.
The technology should be very durable: you can subject it to “severe” bending and flexing without losing its features. And crucially, it should be cheap to make. You’re using relatively common materials, and the processes only take a few seconds even in the lab — you could mass-produce this without jumping through hoops. It’ll be a long time before that happens, but the scientists envision a world where flexible electronics are genuinely practical. On top of e-skin for health sensors, you could see flexible solar panels, roll-up touchscreens and more sophisticated wearables.