For the past few years, bendy electronics have become a new trend. It may seem like sci-fi, but phones that roll up and fit in your pocket and televisions that you can fold up and carry to a friend’s house are that much closer to becoming reality thanks to a new discovery by a team of scientists at the University of Houston. These researchers figured out that by using a gold nanomesh material, they can create the perfect surface for electronics: one that is flexible, conductive, and transparent all at once.
Although there has been talk about bendable smartphones and even bendable batteries, no one has been able to create a material for truly flexible electronics that allows for rolling, folding and easy carrying. In fact, no one has been able to create something that has all three ideal features of such devices: flexibility, conductivity and transparency. However, the Houston team took gold nanowires and created a mesh material. This material was then embedded on a transparent polymer. Gold is more ideal than previously tested metals, such as silver and copper, as it doesn’t oxidize easily, giving it better overall long-term conductivity. To test this material, the scientists stretched it up to 160 percent. The nanomesh material only lost a small portion of conductivity when stretched to its limit, but that conductivity returned when it snapped back to its original form.
So although some smartphone manufactures are working on flexible models of their devices, they aren’t really fully flexible and they cannot be stretched. This new discovery, however, means that future models could be both, as well as transparent. With the size of smartphones increasing to near-tablet size, models that can roll up or be folded into a pocket-sized square would be welcome additions to the technology market.