Stretchable electronics, also known as elastic electronics or elastic circuits, is a technology for building electronic circuits by depositing stretchable electronic devices and circuits onto stretchable substrates or embed them completely in a stretchable material such as silicones or polyurethanes. In the simplest case, stretchable electronics can be made by using the same components used for rigid printed circuit boards. One of the things that needs to change is the substrate and the interconnections, being made stretchable, rather than flexible (see Flexible electronics) or rigid (Printed Circuit Boards). Typically, polymers are chosen as substrates or material to embed. When rigid components are deposited onto stretchable substrates, the interconnects will be subjected to high mechanical strain whenever the substrate is flexed. This is because, when bending the substrate, the outermost radius of the bend will stretch so that the relative spacing of each interconnect will effectively increase in line with the increasing length of the substrate. Stretchable electronics attempts biomimicry of human skin and flesh, in being stretchable, whilst retaining full functionality. The design space for products is opened up with stretchable electronics. 3D conformable circuits are now possible by the application of stretchable cyber-skins comprising elastomeric carrier substrates populated with stretchable conductors and devices.
Stretchable electronics are sometimes called elastronics a new, emerging class of electronics, that is expected to enable a range of new applications: Some examples follow: Cyber skin for robotic devices, imparting a network of sensors on a fully conformable, stretchable cyber skin; in vivo implantable sponge-like electronics; and flesh-like devices with embedded electronic nervous systems.
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“We live in a highly industrialized society and every member of the Black nation must be as academically and technologically developed as possible. To wage a revolution, we need competent teachers, doctors, nurses, electronics experts, chemists, biologists, physicists, political scientists, and so on and so forth. Black women sitting at home reading bedtime stories to their children are just not going to make it.”
—Frances Beale, African American feminist and civil rights activist. The Black Woman, ch. 14 (1970)