A new stretchable material created by engineers at Carnegie Mellon University’s Soft Machines Lab can change shape and conduct heat and electricity with only a portable electronic source of power.
The material combines deformable liquid metal droplets of gallium indium with liquid crystal elastomers (LCEs) that move when they are exposed to heat.
Although LCEs cannot usually conduct electricity, the addition of gallium indium permits them to transmit current while remaining malleable.
“It is not only thermally and electrically conductive, it is also intelligent,” said Associate Professor Carmel Majidi, who directs the US-based Soft Machines Lab.
“Just like a human recoils when touching something hot or sharp, the material senses, processes, and responds to its environment without any external hardware. Because it has neural-like electrical pathways, it is one step closer to artificial nervous tissue.”
Potential uses for the material include wearable computing, healthcare, robots, and more.