Nanotech research yields bouncing liquid metal marbles (w/ video)

January 14, 2013 by Sunanda Creagh

Coating liquid metal droplets in a nanoparticle mix creates an extra strong non-stick conductive material that retains its shape even under high impact, Australian research has found.

The breakthrough paves the way for new developments in soft electronics, said lead author of the research, Dr Vijay Sivan from RMIT's Electrical and Computer Engineering.

"It's a bit premature at this stage but in future we can see it may have a lot of applications," he said, including extendable antennas, and stretchable and reconfigurable wires.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
This video shows the behaviour of a liquid metal marble BEFORE its surface is coated with inorganic nanoparticles, and AFTER. Credit: RMIT

The research team's paper, published in the journal , described how droplets of galinstan liquid metal were coated with powdered insulators including Teflon and silica and semiconductors such as and tungsten trioxide, as well as conducting carbon nanotubes.

Once given their nanoparticle coating, the liquid metal marbles "can be split and merged, can be suspended on water, and are even stable when moving under the and impacting a flat ," with semiconducting properties at their surface, the researchers said in their paper.

"This new element thus represents a significant platform for the advancement of research into soft electronics," the paper said.

A before-and-after video created by the researchers shows how, without the coating, the marbles lose shape and stick when dropped onto a hard surface. The coated , however, retain their shape and bounce like a soft ball.

Associate Professor Patrick Kluth from the Australian National University's Department of Electronic Materials Engineering, said the researchers had produced an interesting finding.

"The applications and limitations for practical use for systems like this can be: reproducibility of the fabrication process, scalability and cost of the fabrication (can they be manufactured in sufficient quantities at reasonable cost), and long term stability under application conditions (how long do they last in applications). Such factors will certainly determine the industrial success of an innovation such as this," said Dr Kluth, who was not involved in the RMIT research.

Explore further: Shape-changing liquid metal antenna could lead to responsive electronic devices

More information: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/adfm.201200837/abstract

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4 comments

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bearly
1 / 5 (1) Jan 14, 2013
How much energy does this absorb? Could it be used as a static "force field"?
Modernmystic
1 / 5 (1) Jan 14, 2013
Might be able to be used as a safety feature in automobiles.
lowerarchy
not rated yet Jan 14, 2013
What are the dimensions of the 'marble'?
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (1) Jan 19, 2013
Might be able to be used as a safety feature in automobiles.
With respect to price of gallium and indium (which will be depleted in few years), I seriously doubt it...

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