Letter | Published:

Highly stretchable electric circuits from a composite material of silver nanoparticles and elastomeric fibres

Nature Nanotechnology volume 7, pages 803809 (2012) | Download Citation

Abstract

Conductive electrodes and electric circuits that can remain active and electrically stable under large mechanical deformations are highly desirable for applications such as flexible displays1,2,3, field-effect transistors4,5, energy-related devices6,7, smart clothing8 and actuators9,10,11. However, high conductivity and stretchability seem to be mutually exclusive parameters. The most promising solution to this problem has been to use one-dimensional nanostructures such as carbon nanotubes and metal nanowires coated on a stretchable fabric12,13, metal stripes with a wavy geometry14,15, composite elastomers embedding conductive fillers16,17 and interpenetrating networks of a liquid metal and rubber18. At present, the conductivity values at large strains remain too low to satisfy requirements for practical applications. Moreover, the ability to make arbitrary patterns over large areas is also desirable. Here, we introduce a conductive composite mat of silver nanoparticles and rubber fibres that allows the formation of highly stretchable circuits through a fabrication process that is compatible with any substrate and scalable for large-area applications. A silver nanoparticle precursor is absorbed in electrospun poly (styrene-block-butadiene-block-styrene) (SBS) rubber fibres and then converted into silver nanoparticles directly in the fibre mat. Percolation of the silver nanoparticles inside the fibres leads to a high bulk conductivity, which is preserved at large deformations (σ ≈ 2,200 S cm–1 at 100% strain for a 150-µm-thick mat). We design electric circuits directly on the electrospun fibre mat by nozzle printing, inkjet printing and spray printing of the precursor solution and fabricate a highly stretchable antenna, a strain sensor and a highly stretchable light-emitting diode as examples of applications.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported in part by a National Research Foundation (NRF) grant funded by the Korean Government (MEST) through the Active Polymer Center Pattern Integration (no. R11-2007-050-01004-0), by the Advanced Soft Electronics under the Global Frontier Research Program (2011-0031659) and by the World Class University Program (R32-20031).

Author information

Author notes

    • Minwoo Park
    •  & Jungkyun Im

    These authors contributed equally to this work

Affiliations

  1. Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Yonsei University, 134 Shinchon-dong, Seoul, Korea

    • Minwoo Park
    • , Minkwan Shin
    • , Yuho Min
    • , Jaeyoon Park
    •  & Unyong Jeong
  2. Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology, Mt.14-1, Nongseo-Dong, Giheung-Gu, Yongin-Si, Gyeonggi-Do 446–712, Korea

    • Jungkyun Im
    • , Mun-Bo Shim
    • , Sanghun Jeon
    • , Dae-Young Chung
    • , Jihyun Bae
    • , Jongjin Park
    •  & Kinam Kim
  3. Interdisciplinary School of Green Energy, UNIST, Ulsan 689–798, Korea

    • Heesook Cho
    •  & Soojin Park

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Contributions

U.J. and M.P. designed the experiments. M.P. and J.I. performed the experiments. M.S. and J.Y.P. contributed materials. Y.M., H.C. and S.P. performed the cryo-microtoming and TEM analysis. M-B.S. and D-Y.C. analysed the mechanical properties with the finite element method. S.J. and J.B. characterized the performance of the stretchable antenna. M.P. and J.I. co-wrote the paper. U.J., J.P. and K.K. conceived and guided the project. All authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript at all stages.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Jongjin Park or Unyong Jeong.

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Publication history

Received

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Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nnano.2012.206

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