Power sources for flexible, stretchable electronics

December 19, 2012

A fully stretchable supercapacitor composed of carbon nanotube macrofilms, a polyurethane membrane separator, and organic electrolytes (credit: Xin Li et al./University of Delaware)

Stretchable electronics are the future of mobile electronics, leading giants such as IBM, Sony and Nokia to incorporate the technology into their products, says University of Delaware  mechanical engineering professor Bingqing Wei.

Potential stretchable applications include biomedical, wearable, portable and sensory devices, such as cyber skin for robotic devices and implantable electronics.

But rechargeable and stretchable energy storage devices, also known as supercapacitors, are urgently needed to complement advances currently being made in flexible electronics,” he says.

So Wei’s research group at the University is developing scalable, stretchable supercapacitors for this type of application, using carbon nanotube macrofilms, polyurethane membranes, and organic electrolytes.

To test the stretchable supercapacitator’s true performance, the Wei group examined the system’s electrochemical behavior using buckled single-wall nanotube (SWNT) electrodes and an elastomeric separator.

According to Wei, the supercapacitor developed in his lab achieved excellent stability in testing and the results will provide important guidelines for future design and testing of this leading-edge energy storage device.