What’s in common between soft robots, stretchable garments and therapeutic clothing? It’s the liquid metal that is the main construction material of all these things.
Scientists from Purdue University discovered a technique aiming to change a natural form of liquid metal into inkjet-able one. The production method consists of dispersing liquid metal in a non-metallic solvent with the help of ultrasound. This process makes liquid metal nanoparticles that are small enough to pass through an inkjet nozzle. In the result we get the ink that can be used by a modern 3D printer.
“We want to create stretchable electronics that might be compatible with soft machines, such as robots that need to squeeze through small spaces, or wearable technologies that aren’t restrictive of motion,” said Rebecca Kramer, an assistant professor at Purdue University.
As to make the metal conductive the nanoparticles are recombined using some pressure. It also helps to remove the oxidized gallium skin from the obtained material and choose which parts of the tissue to activate.
Thus flexible electronics and soft robotics become more acceptable with 3D printing and new liquid metal. And who knows what surgical procedures will be like in several years with all these innovations?