A new study from a team of researchers led by Dr. Nanjia Zhou at Westlake University in China has introduced a new strategy for 3D printing soft hydrogel electronics. Hydrogels are three-dimensional polymer networks that retain large amounts of liquids and are particularly promising in biomedical and environmental applications, as they can survive in bodily fluids or wet natural environments without dissipating. However, the high production costs of hydrogel-based devices has limited their widespread implementation.
The research team’s approach, which is based on 3D printing technology, utilizes a hydrogel-based supporting matrix and a stretchable silver-hydrogel ink. By combining a conductive filler (i.e., silver flakes) with granular gel particles, they were able to achieve a segregated structure in the conductive 3D printing ink, resulting in an electrical conductivity of over 1,400 S/cm.
Using this approach, the researchers were able to create a range of hydrogel-based electronics, including strain sensors, inductors and biological electrodes that performed exceptionally well. This suggests that their approach could be used to create a wide range of new hydrogel-based technologies. The team hopes that this study will facilitate the large-scale production of more complex and sophisticated hydrogel-based electronics, including biomedical devices and new technologies for monitoring the environment.