NCSU uses silver nanowires to create the world’s first stretchable conductors

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We may be close to the world Back to the Future 2 presented to us in some arenas: Video calling, self-driving cars and corporate advertising as far as the eye can see are slowly becoming a part of life. One area we haven’t quite hit yet(besides hoverboards) is truly stretchable, flexible electronics embedded into clothes. We have gotten far on the flexible part of the equation, but the stretchable part still eludes us. It must be noted that the human body is rather stretchy. Not everyone can squeeze into a suit of armor.

Researchers at North Carolina State University have been quietly plugging away at the problem and they think they may have it, um, stretched. Yong Zhu and Feng Xu have embedded a silver nanowire conductor into a variety of textiles. The result? The conductor becomes stretchable. 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. All told the tech allows for up to twice as much stretch. The researchers even indicate that this stretchable conductor can take a beating, making it perfect for military use or just a really intense session of yoga.

Of course, this is only concept technology for now. You are stuck wearing the same ole jeans for the foreseeable future. In the meantime we can daydream about all of the creepily realistic looking robots this technology will eventually create. Can we get some hands up for flexible android skin and the coming robot uprising?! Hands up!

Flex below for a rival school’s video on their own research and an image or two of NCSU’s patent design.