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Conductive, Shape-Shifting Metal Rubber

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  • RemyC
    From: http://www.mdatechnology.net/update_article.asp?id=4801 WINTER 2004 - ARTICLE #4801 Conductive, Shape-Shifting Material Increases Electronics Durability
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 3, 2005

      WINTER 2004 - ARTICLE #4801

      Conductive, Shape-Shifting Material Increases Electronics' Durability
      By T. Robinson

      Dr. Richard Claus of NanoSonic, Inc.
      (Blacksburg, VA)
      roclaus@ nanosonic.com

      Conventional flexible circuits used in cell phones and laptops fail
      whenoverused, strained, or stretched. But, a new conductive material capable
      of elongating and returning to its original form without failure is now
      available for testing.

      Photo: Stretched. NanoSonic President Rick Claus and researchers Jennifer
      Lalli and Jeff Mecham display the capabilities of Metal RubberTM , a highly
      conductive material that stretches like rubber, but conducts electricity the
      way metal does.

      The new material, called Metal Rubber(TM) and developed by NanoSonic, Inc.
      (Blacksburg, VA), can be applied to any existing or new electronic device
      that requires wires to bend and stretch. The robust, low-weight, and
      radiation- resistant material evolved out of nanotechnology research.

      Using its MDA-funded low-temperature electrostatic self-assembly (ESA)
      manufacturing process (see "NanoSonic Demonstrates Self-Assembly Process"
      MDA Update Summer 2001), NanoSonic developed nanocomposites, which it
      layered together to form Metal Rubber. ESA enables NanoSonic to customize
      Metal Rubber's characteristics (e.g., conductivity and modulus). The
      material does not fall apart when deformed and is highly conductive even
      though it just contains parts per million of metal.

      The commercial applications using this conductive, shape-shifting material
      are limitless. A search on the Internet yields visionary ideas like morphing
      aircraft wings, flexible, roll-up keyboards, or Metal Rubber jackets that
      get longer or shorter according to the temperature. But, for now, NanoSonic
      is focused on more near-term applications such as flexible circuits and
      strain sensors.

      Laptops and cell phones that flip open contain flexible circuits connecting
      the base to the screen. These circuits fail when they are bent too often.
      NanoSonic's Metal Rubber is much more flexible and elastic than typical flex
      circuits. It can stretch up to 300 percent its size and return to its
      original shape while remaining conductive.

      Metal Rubber may also be used as flexible interconnects or strain sensors in
      the missile defense system. For example, it may be used in the development
      of flexible, conductive, and radiation-resistant components such as
      interconnects for flexible communication and tracking platforms like the
      High Altitude Airship or space-based radar. Such flexible aerospace
      structures may also require flexible strain sensors to determine shape and
      displacement, and these potentially may be implemented using Metal Rubber
      materials. The Lockheed Martin Corporation recently signed an alliance
      agreement with NanoSonic for possible uses of NanoSonic's novel materials
      and processes.

      NanoSonic is investigating the use of Metal Rubber as a stress/strain sensor
      as well. With the material's good stress/strain linearity and broad range
      (several 100 percent strain), it could be used as jackets or coatings for
      cables used in wiring harnesses. Instead of having to assess each conductor
      of the actual cable, a maintenance technician would inspect only the Metal
      Rubber jacket to determine if the cable has been somehow over-strained.

      NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory may also apply Metal Rubber to its research
      and development of motion-producing devices called artificial muscles. When
      stimulated electrically, artificial muscle materials react by flexing and
      changing shape and could replace bulky motors, electromagnets, and other
      actuators. But wires, which are not as flexible as artificial muscles, need
      to be attached to provide the electric charge.

      NanoSonic president Rick Claus has been the keynote speaker at many
      artificial muscle conferences recently to describe the benefits of using
      Metal Rubber instead of wires on artificial muscles. To accommodate their
      inflexibility, multiple wires are used to weigh down the artificial muscles
      and mechanically constrict them. Instead of doing this, NanoSonic's Metal
      Rubber may be a low-weight, robust replacement that can match the movements
      of the artificial muscles and conduct the electrical charge.
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