Nov 8, 2016 | By Tess

A group of engineers from the University of California San Diego (UCSD) have successfully developed a 3D printable magnetic ink that can be used to create self-healing batteries, electromechanical sensors, wearable, textile-based electrical circuits, and more. Compared to existing self-healing materials, which can take days to work, the new magnetic ink automatically repairs itself within only fractions of a second.

The research, which was published in a recent issue of Science Advances journal, shows how the engineers were able to develop the innovative 3D printable magnetic ink using neodymium, a very soft and silvery metal material and carbon black, a material with electrochemical properties often used to make batteries and sensors.

To make the ink, the engineers used micro-particles of neodymium, each of which possesses a magnetic field larger than its size. The micro-particles are also arranged in a precise orientation determined by a magnetic field, which ultimately allows the particles to join back together even when they are torn apart. According to the research, the new magnetic ink can heal a tear up to three millimeters wide in about 0.05 seconds.

“Our work holds considerable promise for widespread practical applications for long-lasting printed electronic devices,” explained Joseph Wang, director of the Center for Wearable Sensors and chair of the nano-engineering department at UCSD.

To test their self-healing magnetic ink, the researchers printed an array of batteries, electromechanical sensors, and textile-based electrical circuits, which they subsequently damaged by pulling, cutting, and more. Despite the wear and tear, however, the magnetic ink proved it could re-heal itself over and over. For instance, the team even damaged the same  device nine times in the same place, and cut four separate parts of the same device, and found that the ink could repair itself while still maintaining most of its conductivity.

In a video posted by UCSD, you can see how the researchers showcased their work by printing a self-healing circuit onto a t-shirt, which they connected to a coin battery and LED light. When the engineers cut into the t-shirt and the printed circuit, the LED light was turned off. In just a few moments, however, the LED light comes back on, as the conductive ink restores its connection and heals itself.

As Amay Bandodkar, a postdoctoral researcher at Northwestern University and one of the paper’s first authors explains, “We wanted to develop a smart system with impressive self-healing abilities with easy-to-find, inexpensive materials. As the research team has demonstrated, they have already seen success on this front, though there is still more work to be done.

That is, the UCSD engineers are hoping to develop more printable inks using different ingredients and materials to fulfill a wider ranger of applications. They are also hoping to create a computer system with which they can simulate new self-healing materials and inks before testing them out physically.

Images from UCSD

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Technology

 

 

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