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Surprising Science

Flexible Metal

Engineers have developed a new substance by embedding liquid metal in a flexible substrate – and so created flexible, self-healing liquid metal.

“As engineers attempt to integrate electronics into things like clothing and medical devices, they’re increasingly running up against the material properties of the substances we use to make the hardware. A lot of the materials that go into a typical electronic device are brittle, inflexible, and prone to damage, and materials scientists are looking at a variety of options for replacing them. A recent paper in Advanced Functional Materials describes a technique for forming an antenna from liquid metal. The resulting (not-so-) hardware is flexible, self-healing, and can change the frequency that it’s sensitive to based on the stress it’s subjected to. The idea behind the new work is pretty simple, as liquid metal is obviously going to be pretty flexible. It’s just as obvious, however, that containing it is also going to be challenging. There are also a limited number of choices when it comes to metals that are liquid anywhere near room temperatures, and not all of those are viable options—nobody’s going to be enthused about bringing anything containing substantial amounts of liquid mercury to the market these days, for example.”


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