Research Press Release

Materials: Multi-material 3D printing of electroluminescence devices

Nature Communications

August 24, 2022

A 3D printing strategy to construct flexible and stretchable light-emitting devices that can be integrated with soft robots is reported in Nature Communications. This research is demonstrated in a soft robot that can change colour to match its background and may aid in the development of next-generation smart displays, wearable electronics and artificial camouflage.

Conventional methods to fabricate flexible electronics involve a series of steps and expensive tools, which limit their applications in rapid prototyping and customisation. An easy and versatile fabrication strategy to support the increasing demand for flexible electroluminescence devices in technological and optical applications is therefore needed.

Ji Liu and colleagues present an approach to fabricate flexible electroluminescence devices through multi-material 3D printing. They formulated ion conducting, electroluminescent and insulating inks suitable for 3D printing, which they were able to use to create facile and on-demand flexible and stretchable electroluminescent devices. With this approach, the authors demonstrate the creation of a flexible wristband that emits blue light and they also integrated the devices with a soft robot that can change its surface colour to match its background without delay, similar to a chameleon. The authors indicate the devices display stable electroluminescence even under different modes of mechanical deformation, such as bending, twisting and stretching.

Liu and colleagues suggest that their approach offers the advantages of customisability in electroluminescence device fabrication, which may enable the development of custom-made devices for flexible electronics and camouflaging systems.


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