Researchers Build the First Stretchy, Bendy Light Circuit

By Robert Sorokanich on at

Stretchable circuits are going to enable our wearable tech future, but they're incredibly finicky to create. It was just under two years ago that scientists achieved stretchable electronic circuitry; now, Belgian researchers have come up with a flexible light circuit that carries light signals even when stretched.

Fibre optic cables are the genre-defining example of flexible light circuits. But ask a fibre optic cable to stretch, and you're asking for a broken circuit. In a paper published today in Optics Express, researchers say they've built the first stretchy optical waveguide using a sandwich of flexible polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS).

The rubbery material uses a transparent, light-carrying core of PDMS surrounded by a less-refractive layer of the same material, trapping light in the core. The whole bundle continues to carry light signals even when stretched 30 per cent beyond its resting length or wrapped around your finger.

Stretchy optical circuits could find use wherever motion takes place, from flexible or wearable devices to industrial robots. Pair them with lasers, and you've got some serious future tech. Then again, that's true when you pair anything with lasers. [Optics Express via PhysOrg]