Earlier this year, Michael Bartlett, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, was published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces for the article titled, “Liquid Metal-Elastomer Soft Composites with Independently Controllable and Highly Tunable Droplet Size and Volume Loading.”
The work was led by Ravi Tutika, graduate student in materials science and engineering, and was done in collaboration with Steve Martin, Anson Marston Distinguished Professor in Engineering and professor of materials science and engineering.
The article was featured as a cover story of the journal as well.
There is an increasing need to investigate properties of soft functional materials, such as stretchability, thermal conductivity, dielectric behavior, electrical conductivity and toughness. Room temperature liquid metal droplets present exciting opportunities to achieve these diverse functionalities.
The article introduces a fabrication approach to create soft materials with independently controllable features, which are obtained using a combination of shear mixing and sonication of concentrated LM/elastomer emulsions to control droplet size, dilution and homogenization.
“This work enables reliable and rapid fabrication for the research and advance of soft multifunctional composites with unique combinations of functionality and soft mechanical response for applications in soft robotics and stretchable electronics,” Bartlett said.
“By creating droplets from 100 nanometers to 100 micrometers and then loading up to 80 percent liquid metal by volume into a rubber, we open new possibilities for materials that are as soft and deformable as skin with exceptional functionality.”
These soft materials can be used in applications ranging from wearable electronics and actuators to multifunctional devices and robotics.