MEMS and Sensors

Significant advancements made in liquid electronics

18 February 2022
Graphene-wrapped emulsion droplets deposited onto electrodes for single-droplet thin-film electronic devices. Source: University of Sussex

Scientists from the University of Sussex have developed new advancements in the realm of liquid electronics that potentially could enhance the functionality and sustainability of numerous printed electronics, wearables and battery applications.

The researchers have wrapped emulsion droplets with graphene and other 2D materials reducing the coatings down to atomically-thing nanosheet layers. They were able to create electrically conducting liquid emulsions that are the lowest-loading graphene networks ever reported — just 0.001% volume.

If this technology is used for strain sensors for monitoring physical performance and health or electronic devices printed from emulsion droplets or longer-lasting electric vehicle batteries, the cost to develop these electronics will be cheaper as well as more sustainable using less graphene or other 2D nanosheets to coat the droplets.

Any fluids

Another advancement in the technology was made by the University of Sussex in that they can now make these electronic droplet networks using any liquids. Previously, research was focused on only using oils and water. However, now researchers found how to control which liquid droplets are wrapped in graphene so the emulsions can be tailored specifically to a desired application.

“The potential of 2D materials, such as graphene, is in their electronic properties and their processability; we developed a process to harness the surface area of our nanosheet dispersions to stabilize emulsion droplets with ultra-thin coatings,” said Sean Ogilvie, research fellow in material physics at the University of Sussex’s School of Mathematical and Physical Science.

Tuning these emulsions allowed the team to wrap 2D materials around any liquid droplets for its electronic properties. This includes emulsion inks where droplets can be placed without a coffee ring effect allowing single-droplet films for printed transistors and other electronic devices, Ogilvie said.

“Another exciting development for our research group is that we can now also design and control our emulsions towards specific applications such as wrapping soft polymers such as silicone for wearable strain sensors that exhibit increased sensitivity at low graphene loading, and we are also investigating emulsion assembly of battery electrode materials to enhance the robustness of these energy storage devices,” Ogilvie said.

The full research can be found in the journal ACS Nano.

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