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A new twist - stretchable electronics

Soon you'll be able to wrap this around your little finger
Soon you'll be able to wrap this around your little finger

Imagine a media player you could literally wrap around your arm, or a pair of gloves with a built-in phone.

Being to flex and stretch electronics could enable hundreds of new types of devices - and they could soon be on the way, thanks to a research team at the University of Miami.

Engineering Professor Jizhou Song has developed a design for stretchable electronics that can be wrapped around complex shapes without breaking or affecting their function.

Stretching: the truth

The new mechanical design strategy is based on semiconductor nanomaterials that offer high stretchability (up to 140 per cent of their usual size) and twistability (such as corkscrew turns).

The secret to the circuit's design, termed a noncoplanar mesh, is metal interconnects that buckle and form arc-shaped structures.

These make the nanotechnology semiconductor material much more stretchable without changing its electrical properties.

Potential uses for the new design include electronic devices for eye cameras, smart surgical gloves, wings for aeroplanes and flexible back planes for wafer-thin displays, although we'd pay top dollar to have the world's first stretchable netbook.