If you’ve got a subscription to the journal Chemistry of Materials (the link requires a free registration), there’s an interesting article about stretchable electronics, which are key to development of any kind of advanced wearable tech like clothing or skin patches.
The article (also reported in GigaOM) doesn’t move the science itself forward, but may be valuable by putting a taxonomy on the science. The abstract identifies three kinds of stretchables ranging from random deposits of materials on deformable substrates through molecular engineered electronics. From the abstract:
Our principal conclusion is that while the field of plastic electronics has achieved impressive gains in the last several years in terms of electronic performance, all semiconducting polymers are not equally “plastic” in the sense of “deformable,” and thus materials tested on glass substrates may fail in the real world and may not be amenable to stretchable—or even modestly flexible—systems.
In other words, there’s a lot of work to be done in the field. This is not precisely news; frequent readers will know that although the idea of printing circuits on fabrics to create antennas is established, antennas change their frequency response when they’re deformed. That creates interesting engineering problems.
So the takeaway here appears to be that materials scientists — not just electronics scientists — understand the problem. But it looks like solutions are not imminent.