The Loh Down On Science

Rubber Robot

The newest stretch of the imagination? Rubbery electronics.

A Rubbermade Robot? That's a stretch.

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science

Asking. . . Or is it?

Recently, researchers from the University of Tokyo mixed a selection of chemicals with diced carbon nanotubes-- basically crushed graphite--to cook up what LOOKED like a sheet of rubber. The nanotube fiber INSIDE, however, had organized itself into countless electrical-conducting threads.

The scientists punched a matrix of squares into the film, to make essentially a NET of thick wire. Then they plugged the holes with organic transistors--basically gel with electrodes--and re-cooked.

Ta-dah! Elastic electronic fabric that can be molded, folded--even made into UNDERGARMENTS!

And talk about built to last. The researchers stretched a mouse-pad-sized chunk up to the size of a calendar, let it settle back to original size, and restretched it. Even after doing it FIVE HUNDRED TIMES, its performance was unaffected!

The matrix can be tailored to any size, and used pretty much anywhere. Like in robots' joints. Add sensors, make electronic skin! Add actuators, make artificial muscle! Add Keanu REEVES to the matrix, and it STILL won't look lifelike! No, no, no, Keanu. We kid because we love.


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