Microscopic chain-mail could link wearable gadgets

时间:2019-03-01 11:17:09166网络整理admin

By Tom Simonite (Image: IOP Publishing) (Image: IOP Publishing) Microscopic chain mail made from miniscule metal links has been made by US researchers. It could ultimately be used to create textiles with sensors and other electronics built in. Jonathan Engel and Chang Liu at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, made their chain mail using manufacturing techniques borrowed from the microchip industry. First, they deposited a patterned layer of light-sensitive material to create a mould of interlinking gaps. Then they filled these gaps with copper metal. Several repetitions of these steps created the finished links. They used the method to create a sheet interlocked rings and rectangles. Both types of link are about 500 microns across. The fabric has a similar tensile strength to nylon, can be bent around any shape and stretches to increase its length by one-third. It also readily conducts electricity. The researchers were motivated to find flexible materials in which electronic sensors could be embedded, Liu told New Scientist. “A lot of work into flexible sensors uses substrates that only bend in one axis,” Liu explains, “we want to be able to have things fully flexible in three dimensions.” The fabric could be used to make smart clothing, says Liu. “We are interested in perhaps using it as a flexible textile or fabric that has properties like sensing or heating.” It might also be possible to make the micro chain-mail using other materials, Liu says. “We are interested in making it out of polymers or a mixture of conductive and non-conductive materials,” he says. “That research is currently being pursued.” Microchip-scale electronic components could perhaps also one day be built directly into the links of the chain-mail, Liu says. The manufacturing technique employed should make this feasible. And this would allow sensors,