Mechanical and Functional Tradeoffs in Multiphase Liquid Metal, Solid Particle Soft Composites

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Tutika, Ravi
Zhou, Shihuai
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Bartlett, Michael
Assistant Professor
Napolitano, Ralph
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Ames National Laboratory

Ames National Laboratory is a government-owned, contractor-operated national laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), operated by and located on the campus of Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.

For more than 70 years, the Ames National Laboratory has successfully partnered with Iowa State University, and is unique among the 17 DOE laboratories in that it is physically located on the campus of a major research university. Many of the scientists and administrators at the Laboratory also hold faculty positions at the University and the Laboratory has access to both undergraduate and graduate student talent.

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Materials Science and Engineering

The Department of Materials Science and Engineering teaches the composition, microstructure, and processing of materials as well as their properties, uses, and performance. These fields of research utilize technologies in metals, ceramics, polymers, composites, and electronic materials.

The Department of Materials Science and Engineering was formed in 1975 from the merger of the Department of Ceramics Engineering and the Department of Metallurgical Engineering.

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Soft materials with high thermal conductivity are critical for flexible electronics, energy storage and transfer, and human‐interface devices and robotics. However, fundamental heat transport limitations in soft and deformable materials present significant challenges for achieving high thermal conductivity. Here, a systematic study of soft composites with solid, liquid, and solid–liquid multiphase metal fillers dispersed in elastomers reveals key strategies to tune the thermal‐mechanical response of soft materials. Experiments supported by thermodynamic and kinetic modeling demonstrate that multiphase systems quickly form intermetallics that solidify and degrade mechanical response with modest gains in thermal conductivity. In contrast, liquid metal inclusions provide benefits over solid and multiphase fillers as they can be loaded up to 80% by volume with the composites being electrically insulating, soft (<1 MPa modulus), and highly thermally conductive (k = 6.7 ± 0.1 W m−1 K−1). The thermal‐mechanical response of the composites is summarized and quantitative design maps are presented for soft, highly thermally conductive materials. This leads to soft materials with unique thermal‐mechanical combinations, highlighted by a liquid metal composite with an unprecedented thermal conductivity of 11.0 ± 0.5 W m−1 K−1 when strained. These materials and approach enable diverse applications from soft conformal materials for stretchable electronics to thermal interface materials in integrated circuits.


This is the peer-reviewed version of the following article: Tutika, Ravi, Shihuai H. Zhou, Ralph E. Napolitano, and Michael D. Bartlett. "Mechanical and functional tradeoffs in multiphase liquid metal, solid particle soft composites." Advanced Functional Materials 28, no. 45 (2018): 1804336, which has been published in final form at DOI: 10.1002/adfm.201804336. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving. Posted with permission.

Mon Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2018