Liquid Metal Coating Could Create Smart Objects


According to recent reports, a new liquid metal coating inspired by origami from Tsinghua University in China can be applied to paper to build 3D structures and potentially create smart objects.

The study, led by researcher Bo Yuan, was recently published in Cell Reports Physical Science and shows that paper coated in the metal can be crafted into origami shapes and re-fold itself, as well as conduct heat and electricity.

About the Research

Particles in liquid metal tend to stay close together, but it is reportedly difficult to achieve adhesion on surfaces without something that acts as a glue. Additionally, adhesives can also have a negative effect on metallic properties.

Wanting a liquid metal that could stick without an adhesive, Yuan and his team began testing an alloy of bismuth, indium and tin oxide (BiInSn), as well as an indium/gallium alloy (eGaIn).

“We needed to ensure the adhesion of liquid metal to be uniform in large scale on different paper, and to maintain the stability of the coating,” Yuan told Ars Technica in an email interview.

“To solve these problems, we changed pressure applied on the stamp as well as the rubbing speed used in the experiments and finally found the most suitable parameters, which finally achieved fast, large-scale, and stable adhesion.”

According to reports, the researchers stamped it onto paper with different amounts of pressure, finding that it did not require much to stay in place. Then, they created an origami cube out of the metal-coated paper that was self-adhesive.

The team reportedly found that even when that square was unfolded, the coated paper could fold itself back into its original shape as the edges attracted each other. They then tested a spring shape that could be stretched or compressed, remaining however it was adjusted.

The researchers say that it is also possible to build 3D structures out of individual pieces of the coated paper, keeping their shape without falling apart. Afterwards, the coating could reportedly be peeled off without affecting the properties of its paper substrate. This metal coating can then be recycled and used repeatedly.

Yuan adds that the self-adhesion through liquid metal is an advantage, because it could be done with other thin, lightweight materials to create smart objects and soft robots that can fit into tight spaces. Further research intends to look at finding a coating where the metal does not peel off once solidified.

Additionally, he is considering testing bio-friendly paint spray to protect the coating in materials that may eventually be used as packaging, on human skin, underwater or in conditions seen on other planets and moons.

“Utilizing our method, one can quickly create smart materials with good thermal and electrical conductivity as well as stiffness-tunable ability, which greatly expands material options for soft robots,” Yuan said. “I think that this method may provide a new route for designing space explorers.”


Tagged categories: 3D printing; 3D Printing; Asia Pacific; Coating Materials; Coatings; Coatings Technology; Coatings technology; Colleges and Universities; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Latin America; Metal coatings; North America; Program/Project Management; Research and development; Smart coatings; Technology; Z-Continents

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