Stretchable Microfluidic Radiofrequency Antennas

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Started by Lauren Hartle, Fall 2011.



The paper describes improvements made to the design of stretchable antennae. Flexible microfluidic channels injected with a liquid metal form the foundation of the technology. Unlike conventional antennae, which are punched out of metal sheets, flexible, stretchable antennae are more resistant to damage, better conform to arbitrary installation surfaces, and offer tunable frequency when the antenna is stretched. Current PDMS antennae stretch up to 40%, far below the theoretical 160% strain achievable by bulk PDMS. Whitesides, et al. propose the following solution: use PDMS to provide mechanical support to sensitive and/or rigid components and use a softer elastomer to construct the other components. This design provides mechanical stability where necessary, while using the PDMS stiffness "transition" to reduce stress concentration at the interfaces between rigid and soft components.



A half-wave dipole antenna, consisting of two identical branches (dimensions 32.5mm x 3mm x 200um) with electrical connectors positioned in the middle. The liquid metal component was eutectic gallium indium alloy (EGaIn: 75.5% Ga, 24.5% In), and the stiff/soft polymeric components were PDMS and Ecoflex, respectively. The intended resonant frequency of the antenna was roughly 1GHz.