This is the "stretchable gold" that will power rubber circuit boards

We've been hearing a lot about how the future of electronics will involve stretchy circuit boards, or circuits you can glue to your skin. In this video, you can see one crucial ingredient in bendy electronics — stretchable, electrically-conductive gold that can bend with the rubber it's printed on. University of Cambridge engineering researcher Ingrid Graz has been working on creating this type of gold, and here she shows us what this gold looks like on a microscopic level. It's both beautiful and fascinating.


Graz explains:

Imagine a future mobile phone that can be wrapped around your wrist or an MP3 player that is integrated in your T-shirt. Stretchable electronics is a new evolution of electronics - the idea behind is to create electronic devices that can be rolled, flexed, deformed and even stretch like a rubber band. To enable stretchable electronics we use rubber such as silicone coated with a very thin layer of gold. The gold serves as stretchable conductor and can be elongated to twice its original length without electrical failure. The secret behind the stretchability lies within the microstructure. Tiny cracks in the film open up when it is stretched without damaging the film. This image shows a silicone rubber with a gold layer and an additional silicone layer to protect the electrode.

The image is about 3x3mm, and was created at Cambridge's Nanoscience Center.

Music by Peter Nickalls

This is the seventh in a series of videos called Under the Microscope, which io9 is posting in partnership with scientists at University of Cambridge. Under the Microscope is a collection of videos that capture glimpses of the natural and artificial world in stunning close-up. They will be released every Monday and Thursday for the next couple of months, and you can see the whole series here.


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If we utilize gold for actually useful (and amazingly innovative) purposes, then what will we wear on our fingers or eat on our extravagant ice cream sundaes?