In the field of robotics, metals offer advantages like strength, durability, and electrical conductivity. But, they are heavy and rigid — properties that are undesirable in soft and flexible systems for wearable computing and human-machine interfaces.
Hydrogels, on the other hand, are lightweight, stretchable, and biocompatible, making them excellent materials for contact lenses and tissue engineering scaffolding. They are, however, poor at conducting electricity, which is needed for digital circuits and bioelectronics applications.
Researchers in Carnegie Mellon University’s Soft Machines Lab have developed a unique silver-hydrogel composite that has high electrical conductivity and is capable of delivering direct current while maintaining soft compliance and deformability. The findings were published in Nature Electronics.