News Release

Autonomous realignment and self-healing in multilayer soft electronic devices

Peer-Reviewed Publication

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

By combining two dynamic polymers, researchers present a new method for achieving autonomous realignment and self-healing in multilayered soft electronic devices and robots, according to a new study. Like human skin, self-healing polymers allow soft electronic and robotic devices to recover autonomously from various forms of damage. Such devices are often multilayered and embedded with conductive or dielectric materials to achieve functional properties while also maintaining the soft mechanical properties of the self-healing polymer matrix. However, self-healing devices often require manual realignment of individual layers after damage to properly align different functional components within the polymer, as even slightly misaligned layers can limit the functional recovery of a device. Achieving autonomous realignment and self-healing in complex, multilayered soft devices has remained a challenge. Here, Christopher Cooper and colleagues demonstrate an autonomous self-healing of multilayered soft electronic devices by combining two orthogonal self-healing polymers with identical dynamic hydrogen-bonding interactions but with immiscible polymer backbones. According to Cooper et al., composition gradients between the two polymers enable interlayer adhesion between the otherwise immiscible layers while enabling self-recognition and healing of different functional layers. To test the design, the authors fabricated thin film devices with conductive, dielectric, and magnetic particles and demonstrate their ability to functionally self-heal after mechanical damage to 96% of their initial capacitance. What’s more, Cooper et al. showed that the approach could also be used to magnetically guide the self-assembly of soft robots and underwater circuits.

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