Electronic system from University of Illinois Urbana‑Champaign is made of crystals that increase stretchability.

Benefits

  • Increased flexability

Applications

  • Electronics
  • Sensors
  • Medical implants

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 9: Industry Innovation & Infrastructure

The Challenge

Electronics are usually hard objects made of silicon and germanium that can break when stretched too far. This limits their applications for certain use cases, such as soft robotics and medical devices.

Innovation Details

The researchers looked for single crystal materials that could easily stretch without deforming. They found that the bacteriophage T4 virus tail is made of a single crystal of molecules. When the virus injects its DNA into bacteria, the tail is compressed over 60% of its length without deforming. They researchers mimicked this by creating an electronic system that contains an organic crystal called bis(triisopropylsilylethynyl)pentacene. This crystal can be deformed up to 10% its original length, which is ten times as much as a typical electronic crystal. Due to the crystal’s innate flexibility, the electronic system also becomes flexible.

Biomimicry Story

The tail of the bacteriophage T4 virus is a single crystal of protein molecules. When the virus injects its DNA into bacteria, the tail is compressed over 60% of its length without losing its structural integrity.