ASSIST is developing technologies that use liquid metals to create soft and stretchable electronics. These technologies are motivated by building electronics into new form factors, including devices that can conform comfortably to the body.
Liquid metals based on low toxicity alloys of gallium uniquely combine metallic and fluidic properties. As a consequence, they can be deformed without degradation of metallic thermal and electrical conductivity. One challenge is finding the best way to pattern and interface with these materials in devices. Although normally liquids form spherical shapes, these liquids can form a variety of microstructures due to the presence of a stabilizing native oxide skin on their surface.
Within ASSIST, we are working to harness the unique and remarkable properties of these liquids. For example, we are patterning liquid metal interconnects to create wearable thermoelectric devices that convert heat from the body into electricity to power wearable devices. These devices provide best-in-class collection efficiency due to the use of state-of-the-art thermoelectric materials (which are inherently rigid), yet retain a skin-like softness due to the use of liquid metal to connect these components together within a soft matrix, such as silicone. We are studying new ways to pattern and utilize liquid metals within this context.