Self-healing hydrogels use spontaneous intermolecular forces to recover from physical damage caused by extreme strain, pressure or tearing. Such materials are of potential use in soft robotics and tissue engineering, but they have relatively low electrical conductivity, which limits their application in stretchable and mechanically robust circuits. Here we report an organogel composite that is based on poly(vinyl alcohol)–sodium borate and has high electrical conductivity (7 × 104 S m−1), low stiffness (Young’s modulus of ~20 kPa), high stretchability (strain limit of >400%) and spontaneous mechanical and electrical self-healing. The organogel matrix is embedded with silver microflakes and gallium-based liquid metal microdroplets, which form a percolating network, leading to high electrical conductivity in the material. We also overcome the rapid drying problem of the hydrogel material system by replacing water with an organic solvent (ethylene glycol), which avoids dehydration and property changes for over 24 h in an ambient environment. We illustrate the capabilities of the self-healing organogel composite by using it in a soft robot, a soft circuit and a reconfigurable bioelectrode.
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The data that support the plots within this paper are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.
The customized tracking algorithm and EMG sensing data-processing code used in this work are available at https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1DG0Ev9oP3RWoiptVC6TepfWJDQI7y235?usp=sharing.
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This work was partially funded by the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) through the National Bio Materials Consortium (NBMC) under grant no. NB18-21-33.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Zhao, Y., Ohm, Y., Liao, J. et al. A self-healing electrically conductive organogel composite. Nat Electron 6, 206–215 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41928-023-00932-0