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NCSU creates stretchable conductors from silver nanowires, lets gadgets go the extra inch

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
July 16, 2012
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As often as we've seen flexible electronics, there haven't been many examples that could stretch -- a definite problem for wearables as well as any gadget that could afford to take a pull or squeeze. North Carolina State University's Yong Zhu and Feng Xu may have covered this gap through a form of silver nanowire conductor that keeps the energy flowing, even if the wire is stretched as much as 50 percent beyond its original length. By coating the nanowires with a polymer that traps the silver when solid, the researchers create an elastic material that can crumple and let the nanowire take the strain without interruption. Although the stretchy conductor's nature as a research project could put any practical use years into the future, Zhu notes that it can take loads of abuse, making it a perfect fit for rugged mobile devices. It should also allow for robots with a gentler touch and a more natural look... although we'll admit we're skittish about the creepy androids likely to follow.

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