Electronics 3D printed on plastics such as Kapton polyimide or silicon-based PDMS could be used to detonate bunker-buster bombs after penetrating deep into the earth.
Initial testing shows that the flexible circuitry still works after ground impact, said Dr. Benjamin Leever of the Air Force Research Laboratory in a presentation this morning at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston.
Other potential uses of the technology include biosensors for pilots and antennas that are 3D printed on the fuselage of aircraft.
“With our technology, we can take a razor-thin silicon integrated circuit, a few hundred nanometers thick, and place it on a flexible, bendable, or even foldable, foldable plastic-like substrate material,” Dr. Leever said. Conductive plastics have not been used since they do not provide the elasticity required for the prospective Air Force applications, he said in a press conference following his presentation.
In some cases, inks based on metals, polymers and organic materials are used to tie the system together electronically. Liquid gallium alloys are used as an electrical interconnect material. “While these liquid alloys typically oxidize within minutes and become essentially useless, the team has been able to dramatically reduce the effects of the oxidation through the use of ionic species confined to the walls of microvascular channels within the flexible substrates.”
Work on the liquid gallium alloys are at least five years from actual use in the field.
The Air Force research lab is working with four different types of additive manufacturing technology, including traditional 3D inkjet printers.
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