2007 R&D 100 Winner
Among the potential uses for electrostatic self assembly (ESA) are electronic textiles, which could serve as mobile sensor platforms, electromagnetic shields, and mobile power sources. NanoSonic Inc., Blacksburg, Va., in conjunction with NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., and NASA Johnson Space Center, Exploration Medical Capability, Space Medicine Division, Houston, Texas, has successfully captured this functionality with their Metal Rubber Textiles.
Metal Rubber Textiles are ultralow-weight, nearly transparent, electrically conductive, flexible fabrics. By applying a chemical release layer to the surface of a substrate prior to the self-assembly of thicker materials, metal rubber films may be formed and then chemically released from the substrate.
Metal Rubber Textiles are light and highly conductive, with bulk resistivity down to 10-5-cm. The material can withstand extreme elongations with cracking or spalling and endure thousands of flex cycles with low mechanical hysteresis. A modified ESA approach speeds up the molecule-by-molecule fabrication process, yielding film at a rate of millimeters of thickness/hour of synthesis time. The production technique has low environmental impact, and NanoSonic can create sheets nearly 5 m2 in size.
Ultralow-weight, nearly transparent, electrically conductive, flexible fabrics
Originally published in R&D Magazine, September, 2007