Material scientists Jeong-Yun Sun and Christoph Keplinger at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Scientists have developed a breakthrough technology that is enabling new, never before imagined opportunities for the world of smart materials. This technology combines the unique characteristics of ionic gel and rubber to create not only speakers that could be applied to every digital screen in every device, but could potentially revolutionize the the future of medicine. This is the stretchable ionic conductor.
The ionic membranes which distribute the electrical signals are also proving themselves advantageous in the fields of optics and “soft machines” as the visionaries behind the development call it. This is because their assemblies can be completely transparent and stretchable- something previously unobtainable due to the change in resistivity with traditional stretchable devices. They also express one-of-a-kind sensitivity to electrical stimulation; they have remarkable actuation speed and accuracy. (They can actually vibrate quickly enough to sound the entire audible spectrum.)
The truly interesting news lies in the possible applications, however. Since the body’s electricity is communicated through ions instead of electrons, this technology can be integrated into humans with less rejection. They can also, as demonstrated, function as effective coatings for electrical devices that play audio and even, in the case of windows, cancel outside noise.
Currently, this freshly invented prototype is underway to commercialization. There is, however, much chemistry to be done before it goes into your devices. Nonetheless, at least you know about it before tomorrow’s commercials are boasting products with transparent speakers.
- Stretchy, Transparent Ionic Conductors Used in Gel-Based Audio Speakers (azonano.com)
- Transparent gel speaker plays music, paves way for biocompatible ‘soft machines’ (wired.co.uk)
- Transparent gel-based audio speaker (seas.harvard.edu)
- Transparent gel speaker ushers in a future of ‘soft machines’ (theverge.com)