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Electrical Circuit Made of Gel Can Repair Itself

By Phys.org

August 28, 2015

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University of Texas at Austin professor Guihua Yu and colleagues have used a new gel with a unique combination of properties to fabricate a self-healing electrical circuit.  When cut into two pieces, the flexible circuit can repair itself and fully restore its original conductivity.  

The researchers note the gel offers high conductivity, flexibility, and room-temperature self-healing, properties that are not typically seen together.  The team says the gel has a hybrid composition of two gels--a supramolecular gel, or "supergel," is injected into a conductive polymer hydrogel matrix.  

The "guest-to-host" strategy enables the chemical and physical features of each component to be combined.  The supergel's supramolecular chemistry consists of large molecular subunits, and the assembly is held together by weak interactions that also can be reversible, which enables it to act like a "dynamic glue" and reassemble itself.  

The researchers say the gel could be used for self-healing in flexible electronics, soft robotics, artificial skins, biomimetic prostheses, and energy storage devices.

They manufactured thin films of the hybrid gel on flexible plastic substrates to test their electrical properties. The tests showed the conductivity is among the highest values of conductive hybrid gels, and is maintained due to the self-healing property even after repeated bending and stretching.

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