Researchers in the same North Carolina State University lab that developed stretchable wires using liquid metal have now developed self-healing wires that also utilize liquid metal.

The NCSU scientists used a liquid metal core and a self-healing polymer.

Their research, which is supported by the National Science Foundation, was published in Advanced Materials.

The self-healing wires bond at a molecular level. In a demonstration video, the process of manually placing the severed sections together requires some 10 minutes to complete. The metal oxidizes when cut, but when the two pieces are put back together they link again. 

“Because we’re using liquid metal, these wires have excellent conductive properties,” said Dr. Michael Dickey, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering who oversees the lab. “And because the wires are also elastic and self-healing, they have a lot of potential for use in technologies that could be exposed to high-stress environments.”

The wires also are stretchable.

The liquid metal is an alloy of indium and gallium.

“We’re also excited about this work because it allows us to create more complex circuits and rewire existing circuits using nothing more than a pair of scissors by cutting and reconfiguring the wires so that they connect in different ways,” Dickey explained.

“Self-Healing Stretchable Wires for Reconfigurable Circuit Wiring and 3D Microfluidics” was published online in Advanced Materials. The lead author is former NCSU postdoctoral research assistant Dr. Etienne Palleau. Co-authors include Stephen Reece, an undergraduate at NC State; Sharvil Desai, a former postdoctoral researcher at NC State; and Dr. Michael Smith of Arkema Inc.