Researchers were studying delamination of stickers

Often research into one thing leads to a discovery of another substance or process that benefits other areas the original project never considered or intended to investigate. This is the case with a group of researchers from MIT who were doing research on stickers.

The researchers were studying delamination, which is what happens when bubbles form in the stickers on car windows. Delamination occurs in two ways according to the researchers. First, heat from the sun can cause the sticker and the surface to which it attaches to expand at different rates, creating bubbles of delamination.

Another way delamination can occur in stickers is when a surface is compressed and the film bends until it reaches a certain energy threshold and then releases from the surface underneath forming delamination blisters.

As the researchers were studying delamination in stickers, they found that during their very controlled experiments the size of the resulting delamination blisters depended on the elasticity of the film and the substrate along with the adhesion between the two surfaces. The model created by the researchers allowed the team to predict the size of the blisters that would form under specific conditions.

As the research progressed, the team realized that by intentionally creating delamination surfaces they could produce designs for flexible electronics that allow wires attached to a surface to move with the material without breaking.

The major problem with flexible electronics currently is that as the material the wires are attached to stretches and twists the wires break. By intentionally allowing the wires to delaminate from the flexible surface breakage can be prevented allowing the formation of much more robust flexible electronics.

Researcher Pedro Reis said, "It's something that's around you all the time [delamination] — but if you look at it a different way you can see something new."

Delamination has been used by other researchers studying flexible electronics but the process uses was difficult. The new method used by the researchers looking into stickers is much easier to reproduce.

Researcher Dominic Vella said, "Delamination blisters have a characteristic size that they try to choose for themselves. We've characterized this size so that in principle it can be determined just from the parameters of a given system."

Flexible electronics will one day find a place in products like surgical gloves, cellular phones, and flexible displays. The researchers say that graphene is an ideal material for stretchable electronics to be constructed with.

"There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

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