ERJ staff report (PR)
Researchers have developed a rubber-based optical waveguide that could find use in artificial skin and wearable sensor materials, according to an article in the April issue of Materials World Magazine - published by the Institute of Materials, Mining & Minerals (IoM3).
Other researchers have made waveguides from similar rubber materials, but these have not been used to exploit the material’s stretchy nature, lead researcher Jeroen Missinne, of the University of Ghent notes in the IoM3 report. This, he says, is because waveguides are useless if light cannot be guided all the way through them.
The Belgian team uses polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) to marry stretchiness with useful optical properties. Missinne explains, ‘PDMS can be stretched by up to 100% and has similar mechanical properties to human skin. It is, therefore, one of the materials of choice for artificial skin and stretchable electronics research.
The waveguides are made by casting a liquid PDMS against a master mould, which has ridges with the required dimensions of the waveguides. A layer of the same polymer is attached to the patterned side to obtain closed channels, which are then filled with another type of PDMS.
According to Missine, the device can be stretched 80,000 times at 10% elongation without showing signs of degradation, and the optical loss is low enough for applications that require interconnections over a few tens of centimetres.
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