Mechanochromic Stretchable Electronics.
Soft and stretchable electronics are promising for a variety of applications such as wearable electronics, human-machine interfaces, and soft robotics. These devices, which are often encased in elastomeric materials, maintain or adjust their functionality during deformation, but can fail catastrophically if extended too far. Here, we report new functional composites in which stretchable electronic properties are coupled to molecular mechanochromic function, enabling at-a-glance visual cues that inform user control. These properties are realized by covalently incorporating a spiropyran mechanophore within poly(dimethylsiloxane) to indicate with a visible color change that a strain threshold has been reached. The resulting colorimetric elastomers can be molded and patterned so that, for example, the word "STOP" appears when a critical strain is reached, indicating to the user that further strain risks device failure. We also show that the strain at color onset can be controlled by layering silicones with different moduli into a composite. As a demonstration, we show how color onset can be tailored to indicate a when a specified frequency of a stretchable liquid metal antenna has been reached. The multiscale combination of mechanochromism and soft electronics offers a new avenue to empower user control of strain-dependent properties for future stretchable devices.
Barbee, MH; Mondal, K; Deng, JZ; Bharambe, V; Neumann, TV; Adams, JJ; Boechler, N; Dickey, MD; Craig, SL
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