Electronic components and robotic actuators are traditionally built from metals and semiconductors. The Junior Research Group Electrofluids investigates “Electrofluids” as a liquid alternative: suspensions that conduct electrons while flowing as liquids. Fluids in elastic enclosures can replace solid leads and enable truly soft devices. Sufficient conductivity requires highly concentrated suspensions of conductive particles. They form transient conductive networks at manageable viscosity. We study suspensions of common conductive materials such as carbon, silver, gold, and copper, and avoid specialized low-melting alloys of gallium or other expensive elements.
The group studies the interplay between particle-particle friction, contact resistance, percolation, bulk resistance, and suspension viscosity. We use both custom-synthesized and commercial particles in a size range of tens of nanometres to few microns and with different shapes, modify their surfaces with conventional and p-conjugated surfactants and formulate concentrated suspensions that exhibit large conductivity at low viscosity. The combination of different particle sizes, shapes, and fluids enables tuning the properties of the fluid towards specific application cases, for example to create highly flexible leads for logic signals versus high-power connections for the connection of actuators.
The specific aims of this research group are:
- to design highly concentrated suspensions that form transient percolating networks,
- to use this knowledge and synthesize fluids with tunable electrical conductivity at low viscosity,
- to demonstrate that Electrofluids can be tailored for particular applications.
The research on Electrofluids is supported by the European Research Council (ERC)