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Scalable Manufacturing of Liquid Metal for Soft and Stretchable Electronics

thesis
posted on 16.12.2020, 18:32 by Shanliangzi Liu
Next-generation soft robots, wearable health monitoring devices, and human-machine interfaces require electronic systems that can maintain their performance under deformations. Thus, researchers have been developing materials and methods to enable high-performance soft electronic systems in diverse applications. While a variety of solutions have been presented, development of stretchable materials with a combination of high stretchability, electrical conductivity, cyclic stability, and manufacturability is still an open challenge. Throughout this dissertation, gallium-based
liquid metal alloy is used as the conductive material, leveraging its high conductivity and intrinsic stretchability for maintained performance under deformations. This dissertation presents both new liquid metal-based conductive materials and scalable manufacturing methods for the development of a diverse range of flexible and stretchable electronic circuits. First, a laser sintering method was developed to coalesce liquid metal micro/nanoparticles into soft, conductive structures enabled by oxide rupturing. The fast, non-contact, and maskless laser sintering technique, in combination with large-area spray-printing deposition, and high-throughput emulsion processing, provided a methodology to create different physical manifestations of liquid metal-based soft, stretchable, and reconfigurable electronics. Second, a liquid metal-based biphasic material was created using a thermal processing technique, yielding a printable, mechanically stable, and extremely stretchable conductor. This material’s compatibility with existing scalable manufacturing methods, robust interfaces with off-the-shelf electronic components, and electrical/mechanical cyclic stability enabled direct conversion of established circuit board assemblies to stretchable forms. The work presented in this dissertation paves the way for future mass-manufacturing of
soft, stretchable circuits for direct integration into smart garments or soft robots.

Funding

National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Program

History

Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Mechanical Engineering

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Rebecca Kramer-Bottiglio

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

Marcial Gonzalez

Additional Committee Member 2

Kejie Zhao

Additional Committee Member 3

David H. Thompson

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