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Keywords:

  • stretchable electronics;
  • eutectic gallium indium;
  • conductive fibers

Abstract

The fabrication and characterization of fibers that are ultrastretchable and have metallic electrical conductivity are described. The fibers consist of a liquid metal alloy, eutectic gallium indium (EGaIn), injected into the core of stretchable hollow fibers composed of a triblock copolymer, poly[styrene-b-(ethylene-co-butylene)-b-styrene] (SEBS) resin. The hollow fibers are easy to mass-produce with controlled size using commercially available melt processing methods. The fibers are similar to conventional metallic wires, but can be stretched orders of magnitude further while retaining electrical conductivity. Mechanical measurements with and without the liquid metal inside the fibers show the liquid core has a negligible impact on the mechanical properties of the fibers, which is in contrast to most conductive composite fibers. The fibers also maintain the same tactile properties with and without the metal. Electrical measurements show that the fibers increase resistance as the fiber elongates and the cross sectional area narrows. Fibers with larger diameters change from a triangular to a more circular cross-section during stretching, which has the appeal of lowering the resistance below that predicted by theory. To demonstrate their utility, the ultrastretchable fibers are used as stretchable wires for earphones and for a battery charger and perform as well as their conventional parts.