A team, led by researchers at the University of California San Diego, has built a stretchable electronic patch (known as a “smart bandage”) that can be worn on the skin and used to wirelessly monitor a variety of physical and electrical signals. By stacking and connecting layers of stretchable circuits on top of one another, they were able to build soft, pliable “3D stretchable electronics” that can pack a lot of functions while staying thin and small in size. The device, which is as small and thick as a U.S. dollar coin, can also be used to wirelessly control a robotic arm.
“Our vision is to make 3D stretchable electronics that are as multifunctional and high-performing as today’s rigid electronics,” said senior author Sheng Xu, a professor in the Department of NanoEngineering and the Center for Wearable Sensors, both at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. To take stretchable electronics to the next level, Xu (who was named among MIT Technology Review’s 35 Innovators Under 35 list in 2018) and his colleagues are building upwards rather than outwards. “Rigid electronics can offer a lot of functionality on a small footprint—they can easily be manufactured with as many as 50 layers of circuits that are all intricately connected, with a lot of chips and components packed densely inside. Our goal is to achieve that with stretchable electronics,” said Xu.
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