Gecko-inspired method to print electronics on clothes, plastic and leather

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Washington, Sep 21 (ANI): Inspired by geckos, engineers have developed a reversible adhesion method for printing electronics on a variety of tricky surfaces such as clothes, plastic and leather.

Researchers from Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign designed a clever square polymer stamp that allows them to vary its adhesion strength.

The stamp can easily pick up an array of electronic devices from a silicon surface and move and print them on a curved surface.

"Our work proposes a very robust method to transfer and print electronics on complex surfaces," said Yonggang Huang.

Key to the square and squeezable polymer stamp are four pyramid-shaped tips on the stamp's bottom, one in each corner.

They mimic, in a way, the micro- and nano-filaments on the gecko's foot, which the animal uses to control adhesion by increasing or decreasing contact area with a surface.

Pressing the stamp against the electronics causes the soft tips to collapse up against the stamp's body, maximizing the contact area between the stamp and the electronics and creating adhesion.

The electronics are picked up in a complete batch, and, with the force removed, the soft tips snap back to their original shape.

The electronics now are held in place by just the four tips, a small contact area.

This allows the electronics to be easily transferred to a new surface.

"Design of the pyramid tips is very important. The tips have to be the right height. If the tips are too large, they can't pick up the target, and if the tips are too small, they won't bounce back to their shape," said Huang.

The researchers conducted tests of the stamp and found the changes in contact area allow the stamp's adhesion strength to vary by 1,000 times.

They also demonstrated their method can print layers of electronics, enabling the development of a variety of complex devices.

The research will be published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). (ANI)

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