On Monday, the scientific journal Advanced Functional Materials published the work of a research team led by Dr. Vijay Sivan of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
The paper describes how droplets of galinstan, a family of eutectic alloys mainly consisting of gallium, indium, and tin, were given coatings of microparticles and nanoparticles that are insulating or semiconducting. Teflon and silica were among the insulators used, while titanium dioxide, tungsten trioxide, and carbon nanotubes were among the conductors used.
Once coated, the galinstan droplets can be split or merged, suspended on water, and can retain their shapes even during a forceful impact.
The new substance makes possible the creation of soft, malleable electronics. "It's a bit premature at this stage but in future we can see it may have a lot of applications," said Dr. Sivan, "including extendable antennas, and stretchable and reconfigurable wires."
"The applications and limitations for practical use for systems like this can be: reproducibility of the fabrication process, scalability and cost of the fabrication, and long term stability under application conditions. Such factors will certainly determine the industrial success of an innovation such as this," said Associate Professor Patrick Kluth from the Australian National University's Department of Electronic Materials Engineering, who was not involved in the research at RMIT.