PerspectiveStretchable Electronics

Stretch, wrap, and relax to smartness

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Science  24 Jul 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6246, pp. 382-383
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac7417

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For thousands of years, humankind has assembled polymeric fibers into textiles for protection against the environment and as an expression of cultural and social status (1). What began with fibers collected from nature (e.g., flax) is now made from a wide range of high-performance polymers that possess useful mechanical, thermal, and chemical properties. Despite these advances, electrically conducting fibers for the most part have remained elusive, with the exception of fibers based on inherently conducting polymers; to date, the electrical properties of conducting fibers deteriorate when repeatedly stretched and released. In a remarkable development, described on page 400 of this issue, Liu et al. (2) have made superelastic conducting fibers based on carbon nanotubes (CNTs) that can be stretched 1000% with almost no change in electrical conductivity, even after thousands of strain cycles.