New study underlines potential of silver nanowires in flexible electronics

Engineering

US engineers have discovered a new self-healing capability in silver nanowires that could accelerate their application in flexible electronic design.

The team from Northwestern University's McCormick School of Engineering examined the material's cyclic loading, which shows how it reacts to fluctuating loads of stress.

“Silver nanowires have demonstrated unexpected self-healing mechanisms in a new study that highlights their potential usefulness in flexible electronic applications.“

They varied the tension on silver nanowires thinner than 120 nanometres to assess their deformation with electron microscopy, finding that permanent deformation was partially recoverable. It means that some of the material’s defects actually self-healed and disappeared upon cyclic loading.

As such, silver nanowires could potentially withstand strong cyclic loads for long periods of time - a key attribute needed for flexible electronics.

Horacio Espinosa, professor of manufacturing and entrepreneurship at Northwestern University's McCormick School of Engineering, said: "These silver nanowires show mechanical properties that are quite unexpected. We had to develop new experimental techniques to be able to measure this novel material property."

New advances in flexible electronics are important for the development of medical technology, as flexible devices offer significant potential in aiding the real-time monitoring of patients in a discreet manner.

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