Nokia has developed a stretchable electronic “skin” that could potentially be used to make a phone that can be molded to and worn on the body.
The Espoo, Finland-based phone maker, through its Nokia Research Center, is working with a research team at the University of Cambridge to create a material that is flexible enough to create an electronic skin.
By using evaporated gold as a conductor, the scientists have created an electronic touchpad, which can be stretched and pulled like a rubber band, but still respond to touch and pressure. The material can stretch up to 20 percent of its original length without any drop in performance.
The alloy was originally developed by scientist Stephanie Lacour, who created a stretchable skin in an effort to integrate electronics with the brain of patients who are paralyzed.
While Nokia has not disclosed when or what product prototypes are being made with the skin, the technology could easily be incorporated into a smartphone that is stretchable and worn on the skin. Mobile devices could be integrated into clothing or create other wearable devices using the material.
The skin is only part of the nanotechnology being tested as part of the “Morph Concept” initiative. With the development of electronic stretchable materials, Nokia is certainly engineering new materials that could change the very shape of smartphones in the future.
The Nokia Research Center, which was set up in 2007 in partnership with the University of Cambridge, has 25 scientists working in the U.K. with ten more in Switzerland. The team focuses on nanotechnology, which lead researcher Tapani Ryhanen calls “meaningful engineering at a smaller scale.”
In July, Nokia unveiled a concept phone that physically stands up, using kinetic energy, to alert users of incoming calls, messages and emails.