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Capsules for Self-Healing Circuits

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microcapsules filled with carbon nanotubes

Microcapsules filled with carbon nanotubes could be used to repair electronic circuits.

Credit: RSC Publishing

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) researchers are developing a material that could enable a computer circuit to repair itself. The researchers have created capsules, filled with conductive nanotubes, which break apart under mechanical stress, releasing the nanotubes to bridge any breaks on the circuit. The capsules could be placed on a circuit board in failure-prone areas.

The researchers also are developing capsule additives designed to fix failures in lithium-ion battery electrodes to prevent short-circuiting, which can sometimes cause a fire. The ability for circuitry to repair itself may become even more important as flexible electronics, which are subject to significantly more mechanical stress, are developed and released, says UIUC professor Paul Braun.

To make the self-healing material, the researchers encapsulated carbon nanotubes inside polymer spheres about 200 micrometers in diameter. Carbon nanotubes were chosen because of their high electrical conductivity and their elongated shape. In a proof of concept studies, the researchers opened the capsules and placed the mixture between the tips of two electrical probes. The nanotubes successfully formed a bridge to complete the circuit between the probes.

The researchers are currently working on techniques to precisely position the spheres and other tests for the capsules.

From Technology Review
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