Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Liquid Wire

PostedNovember 30, 2014

Download File (mp3)

Anchor Lead: Say you have an appliance with a cord that just won’t reach the electrical outlet. A developing technology could allow the cord to stretch or, if cut, even heal itself.

Randy Atkins: The experimental wires are made of a stretchable insulating sheath…and, rather than copper, a conductive metal core that’s liquid at room temperature.

Michael Dickey: It maintains its electrical properties even when you’re stretching it.

Randy Atkins: Michael Dickey, an engineer at North Carolina State University, says even if the wire is cut…

Michael Dickey: …the surface of the metal reacts very quickly with air to form what’s called an oxide, it’s just a solid skin that forms on the metal.

Randy Atkins: Tough enough to keep the liquid from leaking out, but thin enough to allow a reconnection. Dickey is also using insulation made of chemicals that can easily reform bonds.

Michael Dickey: So it’s mechanically healing on the outside sheath, and it’s electrically healing on the inside core.