Scientists, including several from the University of California, Riverside, have developed a transparent, self-healing, highly stretchable conductive material that can be electrically activated to power artificial muscles and could be used to improve batteries, electronic devices, and robots.
The findings, which were published in the journal Advanced Material, represent the first time scientists have created an ionic conductor, meaning materials that ions can flow through, that is transparent, mechanically stretchable, and self-healing. The material has potential applications in a wide range of fields. It could give robots the ability to self-heal after mechanical failure; extend the lifetime of lithium ion batteries used in electronics and electric cars; and improve biosensors used in the medical field and environmental monitoring.
“Creating a material with all these properties has been a puzzle for years,” said Chao Wang, an adjunct assistant professor of chemistry who is one of the authors of the paper. “We did that and now are just beginning to explore the applications.”
This project brings together the research areas of self-healing materials and ionic conductors. Inspired by wound healing in nature, self-healing materials repair damage caused by wear and extend the lifetime, and lower the cost, of materials and devices. Wang developed an interest in self-healing materials because of his lifelong love of Wolverine, the comic book character who has the ability to self-heal. Ionic conductors are a class of materials with key roles in energy storage, solar energy conversion, sensors, and electronic devices.