Multiple bends won't crack this lightweight, paper-like, flexible ceramic
Materials to make hard-wearing, bendable non-conducting substrates for wearables and other flexible electronics are essential for the next generation of integrated devices. In this vein, researchers at the University of Twente have reformulated ceramic materials so that they have the flexibility of paper and the lightness of a polymer, but still retain exceptional high-temperature resistance. The new material has been dubbed flexiramics.
High-tech materials such as flexible polymers show promise in this regard, as does boron nitride, and may eventually make the cheaper, but more brittle insulators – such as those made from traditional ceramics – a thing of the past. However, the new ceramic material, named flexiramics, could give these new materials a run for their money as it is not only a tissue-like material that is easy to fold without breaking, it is also reportedly inexpensive and easy to produce.
Made using a proprietary ceramic nanofiber process, the new material has been tested up to 1,200° C (2,192° F) in the laboratory, where it neither burned or melted even after 24 continuous hours of this heat being applied.
As a substrate (essentially, the base layer) for such things as printed circuit boards, antennas, and radio frequency identification tags, flexiramics displays exceptional dielectric (electrical insulation) properties in the range of 8 to 12 megavolts per meter. Combined with the ability to withstand more than 2,000 cycles of being bent to a 45 degree angle and back, the flexible ceramic material is also exceptionally lightweight at just 0.06 g to 0.09 g per CM3.
Originally developed in nanofiber research at the Inorganic & Hybrid Nanomaterials group of the MESA+ Institute of the University of Twente, a new company has been seed-funded by grants to bring the new material to market and look for new ways to exploit flexiramics' unique properties.
"I want to inspire (people) to think of new ideas and products that never existed before," said Gerard Cadafalch CEO/CTO of Eurakite, the new company formed to commercialize Flexiramics.
With a patent application already filed for the new material, and with its investor Cottonwood Euro Technology Fund supplying the capital, Eurakite plans to bring the ceramic nanotechnology platform and the first product to market in the form of flexible printed circuit boards for a range of devices.
"We are already receiving customer interest internationally across applications as diverse as oil and gas sensors, mobile phone antennas, lithium-ion battery energy density and performance upgrades, high power electronics for electric vehicles and even solar energy," said Cadafalch. "Attracting Cottonwood's support has already opened additional doors for us and provides the capital needed to begin delivering initial working prototypes and purchasing the equipment needed to set up initial scaling capabilities. We are excited to take Eurekite to the next level."
The video below shows Gerard Cadafalch explaining more about the new product.